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China: Rodent population problem

The top featured story at Sina blogs yesterday was the rodent invasion into the areas surrounding Dongting lake in southern Hunan province precipitated by flooding on the Yangtze river, and the resulting extermination campaign.

Among discussion were the reasons the rodent population has flourished in the south, as well as what's being done with the corpses, ninety tons of which have already been collected, according to officials, with two billion rodents running loose in total [zh]. Video and photos have been posted and, notes Sina blogger ‘Everywhere is my Home, the area affected spans four million mu—just more than 1,000 square miles—which includes twenty-two counties, leaving the local flood protection dike and eight million mu of rice paddies at serious risk:


According to analysis, the reason for the mice disaster in Dongting lies in the influence of recent years that Cantonese cuisine has had in Hunan, bringing “a taste for snake” into popularity, with massive numbers of snakes having been turned into tasty treats, and the other natural predator of mice, owls, killed as a result of the folk medicine belief in their ability to cure headaches. The field mice, lacking natural predators, have flourished in numbers and are running amok destroying nature.



When I read this piece of news, I thought of something that happened not that long ago in Shanghai, 840 vagrant cats (with some house cats among them) were rescued by Shanghai Society for the Protection of Small Animal members at a toll booth on the Shanghai-Guangzhou expressway (these cats were purchased by cat dealers in Zhejiang, Anhui and other places then shipped to Guangzhou restaurants to be turned into food), who then posted messages to every bbs forum to collect medicine and food to cure these poor little lives. At the same time, police refused to get involved on the grounds that cats do not count as nationally protected animals; what's most despicable is that the cat dealers carried fake Department of Forests documents, and made a commotion, saying that whoever moved the cats would be beaten to death. Then, the next day another shipment rushed off to Guangzhou.


Why do I connect these two incidents? There's another major reason: news reports are saying that director of the Hunan province Department of Agriculture Cheng Haibo has put forth a proposal for the chemical extermination of the mice, mainly to prepare to use poisoned bait, the pesticide bromadiolone or diphacinone sodium salt etc. to kill the mice. Governments in both Datong Lake District and Datong Lake County put up emergency control funds to purchase the rodent poisons, over forty tons to be dropped down on the mice to exterminate them.




Anyone with a little common sense will know that while using chemicals to exterminate rodents will be quite effective, the even larger negative impact it will have on the local environment is immeasurable. From this it can be seen. Once again we see that government drive to accomplish has taken on the role of being clumsy and up to no good.

Let's just imagine a nice finale, though: if those 840 cats lived in Dongting, would there still have been the rat disaster?

One last question, to Guangzhou residents: when you're eating the corpses of little animals, having seen this news, are you still able to swallow them down???

Not all of them residents, judging from sentiment expressed by Southern Metropolis Daily blogger Arden Deng:

“When did eating field mice become a fashionable trend? I don’t know. I do know that each winter I join my old schoolmates to catch field mice by using smoke to choke them out of the holes in winter, and that one of my neighbors keeps field mice dried and preserved at home. I’ve also learnt that according to traditional recipes, some Cantonese dishes use mice for the treatment of hair loss and for some nutritional purpose. Yangcheng Evening News, a local daily published a commentary yesterday defending the field mouse’s place in traditional diet. The author argued that respect should be paid to various local traditions despite Western discrimination against such, on the basis that strict hygiene procedures are in place beforehand.

“…whenever there are people bombarding against the Cantonese “ungraceful” wild diet, I wish to distance myself from the Cantonese by declaring myself a Hakka—as I am. I know it doesn’t work though, as not much difference remains between the two. With the flourishing restaurant industry, every kind of dish is up for exploitation, to be pushed up against the common sense. For example, there is little daily connection between pangolins and human beings, so it is understandable why it became a dish in a sense. But rats? They’re a daily-visible creature with a dirty and notorious reputation. Leeches won’t even take rats as delicious diet, so what kind of humans do? I really feel sorry for them.”

Other bloggers made the association between this campaign [zh] and that of the Cultural Revolution era, then to wipe out ‘the four pests’.

The Demon of Justice‘ blogger goes back [zh] to the underlying problems that gave rise to this situation:


According to the news, this rat disaster came about mainly due to people's excessive eating, having eaten snakes, eagles and owls, all the natural enemies of the rat, all up, making it now almost impossible to find trace of these animals. Everywhere these rodents can be found, grain keeps falling to the ground as though just been cut by the harvesting machine. Locals are taking things like wooden clubs and shovels to go kill the rodents; someone with a club can kill two or three and a shovel, seven or eight. The efforts put in over the last few days have actually brought in ninety tons of rat! Yet still, there seem to be just as many, wildly running around, and the field continues being savaged. Everyone continues living in fear, with the foundations of their houses continuously being damaged.


But why bother? Humans! If we just ate less we wouldn't be in this situation! I can't figure it out either, how so many people can like wild game; the flavor can't be that great, can it? People live well now, they have enough to eat, so what's wrong with fish and common meats? It's not like we can't eat them. Having to head into the ocean to catch dolphins, going up to heaven to pluck the birds from the sky, isn't enough? A lot of people say wild game is tastier than domestic, but I don't see that as completely true. Suppose humans had historically raised swans and geese, not chickens and ducks, I think now most people would be scrambling to eat the latter, right? Some people say they just want to try something new, well okay, now that you've tried it, is it really necessary to eat them into extinction? If you insist that this flavor is the most delicious under heaven, why not cultivate it yourself? This way you won't be eating them into extinction. We know that before you cut down a tree you must plant a new one, so why don't we get it that what we eat needs to be sustained too?

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