The City of Lights is in the news again – and not for President Emmanuel Macron barely surviving a no-confidence vote last week for overuse of executive power. The burgeoning problem du jour is one Paris has faced since its founding. Mon Dieu, rats! Millions of rodents live under the city and enjoy their tourist destination, feeding and breeding in alleyways, dumpsters, and a municipality with a significant garbage problem. The unintended consequences? Sanitation workers have called off and are demanding a rat reprieve before going back to work, leaving thousands of tons of festering waste.
Animal toxicologist specializing in invasive species Romain Lasseur warned that “uncollected” refuse has resulted in a “change in the behavior of rats” in Paris. “They will walk in the garbage cans, reproduce there, and leave their urine and droppings. There is a worrying health risk, for garbage collectors and the population in general, especially with leptospirosis,” he advised anyone who might take heed and fix the rathole of a mess.
Et Maintenant, Paris?
French garbage collectors are on strike, all because Macron decided to step all over his Parliament and make sweeping reforms in the nation’s pension system. The reform would take the retirement age for garbage collectors from 57 to age 59. They do an extremely tough job, physically and sometimes emotionally, and aren’t paid all that well for their efforts. Studies have shown it does affect a sanitation worker’s life expectancy. So, uniformed refuse riders have gone rogue, screaming Sacre Bleu! towards the heavens and enjoying a little forced bit of rest and relaxation.
The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has declared her “total, complete solidarity” with the striking workforces and blames Macron. She has refused to negotiate or seek solutions from outside sources, but Police Chief Laurent Nunez stepped up. The chief ordered utility garages unlocked and forced 674 sanitation personnel and 206 garbage trucks back to the rat-ruled streets.
It may be a little too late, however, as Lasseur warned of rats’ ability to adapt and change behavior to suit their needs. Currently, the rodent population is nearly three times the Parisian human population.
Rats are the leading carriers of leptospirosis, a serious bacterial disease that is “mostly contracted during activities related to environments soiled by the urine of contaminated animals, especially fresh water,” as explained in a French Ministry of Health brochure. And there is a ton of rat waste to be breathed, accidentally handled, and exposed to as rubbish piles are blocking out the views of the city.
But rats have their supporters.
Rats are not unintelligent creatures, and they have the support of some pet owners and animal rights groups. The Paris Animals Zoopolis (PAZ) organization denounces any “cruel” killing of what they insist are “sensitive, intelligent, playful and empathetic beings.” The group released a statement describing why they were set to protest: “Rats are empathetic animals eager to help their congeners in distress, even if they should not benefit from it. As soon as we talk about rats, we hear everything and anything. No, rats are not responsible for all the evils in France.” Apparently, they also believe Macron is the evil rodent for causing the unions to strike and garbage to pile up on the streets.
Same Species, Different Century
In the 1800s, Parisiennes were terrified of a rat infestation, having the somewhat recent and lingering history of the Bubonic Plague to fear. Paris lost 100,000 souls during the initial outbreak 500 years earlier, and they have long memories. Rats in Paris, however, are a mainstay. There will never be a rat-free big city with underground sewage, a source of ready water (the Seine), and plenty to eat. But perhaps rodents will simply go back underground and out of sight if the people can be made happy and return to work. The real rat to fear may be the one with the heavy-handed executive privilege residing garbage free at Palais de l’Élysée.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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