Earlier this year, the New York Times published the online article, “Is There an Ethical Way to Kill Rats? Should We Even Ask?”

In this article, the author raises the issue of controlling the urban rat population, and questions what the extraction of rats from the urban environment would do to existing ecosystems. ASI’s Board Chair, Liz Hirky, and Board Director, Thomas Aiello, submitted the following letters in response to this article:

“In the February 28 online NYT article, “Is there an ethical way to Kill Rats? Should we even ask?”, I was encouraged to see the author cite research on the cognition and sentience of these animals, along with an acknowledgement by some trappers that these animals don’t deserve a protracted painful death. Surely, we can do better by our fellow sentient mammals than large-scale extinction. What about the chemo-sterilization pilot programs conducted a few years ago in NYC that reported good effects?  We can do better.” – Liz Hirky, ASI Board Chair.

“In the February 28 online NYT article, “Is there an ethical way to Kill Rats?  hould we even ask?”, the author mentions some research on the cognition of rats. Meaningful research on rat sentience and brain development extends back at least to the 1960s (see Marian C. Diamond, David Krech, and Mark R. Rosenzweig, “The Effects of an Enriched Environment On the Histology of the Rat Cerebral Cortex,” Journal of Comparative Neurology 123, August 1964: 111-119). Disease transmission is a real issue but the narrative that it’s necessary to control rats because they cause disease or because of damage to native ecosystems is the same language Americans have used to justify discrimination against human immigrants. Such control was unnecessary in those cases, and it is so with rats. If we take sentience seriously, within and across species, solutions other than mass killing are not only possible but imperative.” – Thomas Aiello, Board Director.

Find the full New York Times article here.

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