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The Rats are Suffering Too

The coronavirus pandemic has made us all emotional in unexpected ways, and now, for me, it has come to this: I am suddenly really concerned about the rats.

We have been rightly focused on all the ways that COVID-19 has torn the human world asunder. But we are not alone on this earth. The rats are suffering too, as NBC News reported in this chilling story on Monday (emphasis mine):

[M]any other rats are not faring as well, said [Bobby] Corrigan, who works as a consultant for several city health departments and businesses, such as airports and shopping malls.

“A restaurant all of a sudden closes now, which has happened by the thousands in not just New York City but coast to coast and around the world, and those rats that were living by that restaurant, some place nearby, and perhaps for decades having generations of rats that depended on that restaurant food, well, life is no longer working for them, and they only have a couple of choices.”

And those choices are grim. They include cannibalism, rat battles and infanticide.

“It’s just like we’ve seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands and they come in with militaries and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who’s going to conquer that land. And that’s what happens with rats,” he said. “A new ‘army’ of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area.”


“They’re mammals just like you and I, and so when you’re really, really hungry, you’re not going to act the same — you’re going to act very bad, usually,” he said. “So these rats are fighting with one another, now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups.”

This is horrendous!

As a New Yorker, I have, by necessity, developed a cordial enough relationship with rats. You can’t live here and spend your time being afraid of something you see so often. (You know you’ve come to accept this city when you start watching the rats on the subway tracks as a way to pass the time waiting for the train.) I don’t want rats actually near me, or, god forbid, in my house, but we live in a society, and it’s their society too.

What I never expected was that I would be mourning the loss of the rat ecosystem and feeling a real, deep stab of sadness about what is happening to them. But how could I not? Their world is falling apart and they are starving and Donner Party-ing each other and eating their children and waging horrific rat wars. It just shows you how fragile the world is—one day you’re a rat living happily off of the world’s garbage and the next day you’re tearing chunks out of your own family. Pizza Rat is probably just Rat Rat now because it had to eat its son! How can we accept this as moral beings?

This is not how a virtuous universe should operate. I just pray the rats make it out of this thing OK. God, the pandemic sucks.

You can find past Discourse/Splinter rat coverage here and here.

Pictured: Pizza Rat, who is probably eating another rat now. 🙁