War on rats sparks a war of words

2011-08-20 17:24

Orlando East residents welcome the arrival of workmen armed with clubs and generators.

The workmen have come to eliminate rats the residents claim are so deft they can flip open pot lids and nibble on the food inside.

Apparently, the rats have even scared cats away and developed a liking for children’s fingers and toes.

And so the workmen, employees from the City of Joburg’s pest control unit, go to work.

Using portable generators, they spray lethal carbon monoxide fumes into the burrows where the rodents take refuge during the day.

Scores of residents, happy that their suffering is about to come to an end, gather to watch.

Now and then, a rat (or two) crawls out of a burrow, only to be poked with iron rods and wooden clubs.

“We’re here to intervene in the war between rats and people,” a workman says as he and his team walk towards an open field littered with waste near Block 5, Orlando East.

The onlookers cheer.

Suddenly, a group of women scatter in all directions as a workman digging in a nearby yard rams his stick into a big rat staggering from one of the holes.

But officials from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) are not impressed. They reprimand the workmen for being “inhumane” to the rodents.

An official was filming the entire episode on a video camera. Another whips out a stethoscope to examine some of the large rats that escaped the sticks and iron rods, and lie writhing in the dirt.

Soon, City of Joburg official Peter Manganyi is in the firing line.

NSPCA officials demand that he instruct his men to stop the gassing and bludgeoning.

Phone calls are made to officialdom.

NSPCA officials collect the dead rats in a plastic bag, apparently for postmortems to determine whether the gassing and bludgeoning were inhumane.

Some of the workmen grumble, but NSPCA officials are adamant that cruelty, whether to a dog or a rat, is cruelty and the operation has to be called off.

After an hour or so, a disappointed Manganyi is forced to call off the operation after the NSPCA and senior city officials come to some sort of temporary agreement.

The City of Joburg is adamant that the rodents should be eliminated.

The NSPCA says: “No problem with that. But hey, humane methods should be used.”

And so we wait for the postmortem results.

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