An animal welfare organization has doubled a controversial plea for farmers to avoid poisoning mice due to the “dangerous notion of human supremacy”.
Comments from people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) during the height of a devastating mouse plague that rodents should not be denied their “right” to food have been sharply criticized by farmers and rural supporters.
But PETA spokeswoman Aleesha Naxakis stood by her comments when she was interviewed on Channel 7’s Sunrise program Wednesday morning.
“I would like to point out that mice are less important than humans. I think that is definitely speciesism, which we at PETA strongly oppose, ”she said.
“It is a worldview that puts humans above any other animal.”
But Ms. Naxakis admitted that the suggestion to catch the mice and release them unharmed would not work.
“It is definitely not an appropriate solution in this situation, (but) it is our general advice when we talk about rodent control,” she said.
Ms. Naxakis’ sunrise came after suggesting in comments on NCA NewsWire that rural dwellers should consider the welfare of the mice and avoid killing them with poison.
Many farmers and other people in the regions are doing just that to stave off the ongoing rodent infestation in Eastern Australia, which is on track to causing up to $ 100 million in damage and which is already a mental health crisis in the country Regions have worsened.
Some farmers have lost up to $ 300,000 each in ruined crops while the mice chew through whatever they can get their teeth into.
“These bright, curious animals are only looking for food to survive,” Ms. Naxakis told NCA NewsWire.
“You shouldn’t be deprived of that right because of the dangerous notion of human domination.”
She said the government should take responsibility for the increase in mice and invest in humane methods of population control.
“In the meantime, we urge farmers and local residents to avoid poisoning these animals,” said Ms. Naxakis.
“This cruel method of killing innocent mice not only exposes innocent mice to excruciatingly painful deaths, but also carries the risk of spreading bacteria in the water when mouse cadavers appear in water tanks.
“Instead, humane traps allow small animals to be gently caught and released unharmed.”
Her initial comments led Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to say that PETA activists were “idiots who have never been out of town.”
“The real rats in all of this plague are the people who come out with bloody stupid ideas like these,” he said.
“Your thinking about it is reprehensible when peasants are fighting.
“You have these people who never left town and wouldn’t know if their bums were on fire. Then suddenly they tell the farmers what to do?
“The only good mouse is a dead mouse.”
Gunnedah farmer Xavier Martin urged PETA to try the catch-and-release model and see for itself whether it would work.
“It’s not the welfare of mice that we should be concerned about, we should care about people,” Martin said.
NSW Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro agreed that the PETA proposal was “ridiculous” and an “insult” to those living in the regions.
“I would laugh if it weren’t so serious,” said Barilaro.
“The mice attack people while they sleep, tearing cables apart and wreaking havoc on the first good harvest that many farmers have had in years.
“I’m not going to entertain PETA’s ridiculous concerns. Mice are pests. They destroy crops and farms, and the emotional fear they cause families is real. “
CSIRO mouse expert Steve Henry said he spoke to a farmer who lost more than $ 300,000 to the rodents.
He said there was little people could do to stop the mice other than use poison to kill them.
The only poison registered for baiting large-scale farming systems is zinc phosphide, while households have to resort to over-the-counter mouse bait sold in supermarkets, according to Henry.
He said the research he and his colleagues did on the strength of zinc phosphide recently resulted in authorities allowing stronger doses to be used, meaning any mouse that ate a poisoned grain would die.
“I don’t know of any evidence that an animal suffers from this poison, but I would stay away from the emotional things and stick with what we know,” said Henry.
“We know mice are a terrible problem for communities. And we have few methods of controlling them.
“We need to use these methods as strategically as possible to reduce the problem caused by mice.”
Mouse plague has struck a growing area stretching from southern Queensland to central NSW to northern Victoria, and there has also been an outbreak on the Yorke Peninsula in southern Australia.
The rodents have exploded in large numbers thanks to the same summer rain that was a welcome relief to the farmers who had suffered from the drought.
The pests can become pregnant as little as six weeks of age and have a litter of up to 10 newborns every 20 days.
This means that the population can quickly get out of hand, as many regional residents have experienced in recent months.
John Southon, the director of Trundle Central School, a rural NSW school that was overrun by mice, said PETA’s comments were demeaning to people in the areas.
“I think it’s just another absolutely ridiculous concept from people who have never had mouse plague and can’t see the damage it can do,” he said.
Clinical psychologist Gene Hodgins said people’s mental health was a real concern as mouse plague was only the latest in a string of disasters they faced, including drought, fire, flood, and COVID-19.
“Chronic stress leads to physical problems – fatigue and a weakened immune system – and mental problems,” said Hodgins, who works for Charles Sturt University.
“Mouse plague creates a feeling of helplessness, is ubiquitous, and affects every part of people’s lives, both at work and at home. There is no rest, ”he said.
There are other health effects as well. NSW Health has reported a sharp rise in mouse-related leptospirosis in the past few months.
The total number of cases this year, 39, is already higher than the last two years combined.
The Hunter and New England area has borne the brunt of the spread of leptospirosis. This year there have been a total of 21 cases in which the disease causes flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, can lead to death.
Severe mouse plagues usually affect Australia every ten years or so.
While it has not previously been possible to quantify the damage caused by the current damage, a 1993 outbreak of a similar magnitude caused an estimated damage of $ 96 million, according to CSIRO.
A recent survey by NSW Farmers found that almost all of the 1,300 or so respondents had done a mouse check since the spring.
About 10 percent had spent more than $ 50,000 on bait, with 15 respondents saying it was more than $ 150,000 each.
Additionally, 48 people in the survey said they lost more than $ 250,000 in ruined grain, feed, and grain to the mice.