Rats living in major US cities are resorting to war and cannibalism to survive the coronavirus lockdown, a rodent expert has told the media. But as closures hamper food production, humans may also find themselves in trouble. While rats feeding off the residential waste in places like New York City and Los Angeles are doing just fine, those relying on restaurants – shuttered due to Covid-19 quarantines – are suddenly facing starvation, urban rodentologist Bobby Corrigan told NBC News on Monday.
"It's just like we've seen in the history of mankind, where people try to take over lands and they come in with militaries and armies and fight to the death, literally, for who's going to conquer that land. And that's what happens with rats," he said. "A new 'army' of rats come in, and whichever army has the strongest rats is going to conquer that area." In addition to rat armies fighting “wars” with each other over prime residential garbage, “now the adults are killing the young in the nest and cannibalizing the pups," Corrigan added.
His alarming description may be based in no small part on viral footage of rats fighting for leftovers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans last month, just days after authorities placed much of Louisiana under Covid-19 quarantine. Similar imagery was recorded in Bangkok, Thailand recently. If the dire warnings from the food processing industry are anything to go by, however, Americans may soon face similar problems if the shutdowns go on much longer. So far, the biggest shortages in stores have been things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, with food being reasonably plentiful. But the people making this possible – from farmers and ranchers to food processing plant workers, truckers and grocers – can’t work from home.
“We are weeks, not months, away from farmers euthanizing animals that would have been sold for meat [or] food,” Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) warned on Monday. “Also, fruits and vegetables are going to rot in the fields.” America’s “brittle” food supply chain is going to result in supermarket shortages and processing plant closures, while farmers and ranchers will be forced to destroy their products, Massie warned, slamming people in the US government who “have no clue about how the economy works.”
Six of the largest US processing plants have already shut down, the Kentucky congressman said. The latest closure came on Sunday when Smithfield extended the shutdown of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota pork processing plant because almost 240 of its 3,700 employees contracted the coronavirus. The plant accounts for up to five per cent of total US pork production. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan said in a statement. “We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of Covid-19.”
While Thais hunker down indoors during a night curfew to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the streets of their capital city Bangkok have been effectively handed over to increasingly brazen rats sniffing around for food.