Rats Nest: Could New York be a lab test for the US?

Scientists use rats in laboratory tests in multiple ways (diseases, medicines, behaviour, etc.) because they can be used as a microcosm or simulation for humans.  And they may be again.

Due to the closure of restaurants in New York, many rats that normally feed around them are turning cannibalistic, eating each others’ young and smaller adults.  However, rats that live around apartment buildings (where food can still reliably be found) have not exhibited that behaviour.  From the New York Times:

C.D.C. Warns of ‘Aggressive’ Rats Searching for Food During Shutdowns

Humans are not the only ones who miss dining out.

As restaurants and other businesses have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, rats may become more aggressive as they hunt for new sources of food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.

Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to “unusual or aggressive” rodent behavior, the agency said on its website on Thursday.

“The rats are not becoming aggressive toward people, but toward each other,” Bobby Corrigan, an urban rodentologist who has both a master’s degree and Ph.D. in rodent pest management, said on Sunday. “They’re simply turning on each other.”

Dr. Corrigan said there are certain colonies of rats in New York that have depended on restaurants’ nightly trash for hundreds of generations, coming out of the sewers and alleys to ravage the bags left on the streets. With the shutdown, all of that went away, leaving rats hungry and desperate.

In New Orleans, hordes of rats took over the streets after people emptied out. Hundreds of thousands of rats in Chicago have started boldly searching for food, traveling farther and during the daytime. Some have even moved into car engines.

Dr. Corrigan said pest control professionals in the city have sent him photos of rodent cannibalization and slaughter.

“They are going to war with each other, eating each other’s young in some populations and battling each other for the food they can find,” Dr. Corrigan said. “But the rats that live and eat in residential blocks probably haven’t noticed a single bit of difference during the shutdown.”

Food shortages have already begun across the US due to labour shortages.  They haven’t caused starvation and an absence of meat can be coped with. But what would happen if the supply of bread, fruit and produce dried up?  I can picture Cheetolini using forced labour at gunpoint (if a “re-election” were rigged), but what about other countries?

And I can picture the wealthy being like the rats still able to obtain food, and not caring about the others who are starving.

Politico: Trump deems farmworkers ‘essential’ but not safety rules for them. That could threaten the food supply.

Sioux City Journal: Worker shortage concerns loom in immigrant-heavy meatpacking

Agriculture_com: COVID-19 pandemic causes labour shortage for Malaysia’s palm industry

City Press (South Africa): Fruit is ripe but farmers have to contend with Covid-19, labour shortages

CNBC: Feeding strawberries to cows: Farmers forced to throw fruit and flowers as coronavirus disrupts supplies

NPR: Germany Struggles To Fill Its Farm Labor Shortage After Closing Its Borders

Unsurprisingly, a financial rag is calling average people “lazy” for not accepting backbreaking work that pays pennies:

This Is Money UK: Farmers are crying out for 80,000 people to pick fruit and vegetables and keep our supermarket shelves full, but are Britons up for the work?

I am not predicting or guaranteeing total social breakdown, but the situation has that potential.  A year without a harvest, just like 1815.


  1. lorn says

    Eat the rich?

    Metaphor, organizational principle, safety net, and/or vision of a future? Interesting times.