DEATH TO THE RAT.
The rat has already, attained the honour of special legislation on the Continent;* 'but wsy had hardly expected that so conservative and- dignified a body as the British House of Commons would be inclined to discuss vermin and their habits,, and ■to frame laws accordingly. However, the crusade against rats which has been carried on for some years, past on the Continent has "caught on" in England, and a bill has now been introduced into the House of Commons to provide for their extermination. The evidence as to the amount of damage done by rats is simply overwhelming in quantity and character. They are far and away the most industrious and the most destructive of all kinds of vermin, and, considering that if allowed to breed undisturbed, the descendants of a 6ingle pair may amount to from 600 to 800 in a single year, it is extremely difficult to calculate their numbers or the amount of injury they inflict upon mankind. Their depredations in-granaries, cornfields, and provision warehouses, in libraries, boot factories, and drapers' shops, and their 'indomitable capacity for making away with any. obstruction they meet, from wooden floors and walls and gaspipes to book covers and billiard balls, represent, when combined, a quite incalculable sum total of loss and injury to the world at large. The statement that they cost the United Kingdom £15,000,000 a year is, of course, only an approximate suggestion, based chiefly on the assumption that every rat eats about one half-penny worth of food a day; but it is sufficiently alarming to justify the public interest now taken at Home in the whole question. The systematic warfare now being waged against rats in the Old World is due chiefly to the exertions of ZuscLjag, a Danish engineer, who, by the most careful and laborious investigations, convinced himself, and ultimately convinced the Danish Government, that the rat is an enemy to the human race, and that by the expenditure of a relatively small amount of money it can be practically exterminated. In Denmark and Germany, where the anti-rat crusade has been taken up enthusiastically, the authorities rely chiefly on scientific methods. Dr. Danysz, who experimented in rabbit extermination in Australia, and Xcufeld, a German chemist, have discovered a virus which is fatal to rats and is disseminated among them with amazing rapidity but cannot be conijuunicated to other animals. The disease has been introduced on an extensive scale among Continental-rats, and is said to be making very satisfactory headway. In England the work has been taken up chiefly on the hygienic or - sanitary side; and Sir James Crichton-Browne, the eminent physician; has Organised a strong movement against the devoted rat. The bearing of these facts upon colonial experience is obvious enough; and their interest to us is painfully accentuated by tho fact that the bubonic plague has already taken root in Australia. It is now a matter of common knowledge that ttfe rat is the chief means by which the infection of bubonic plaguo is transmitted, and that, nothing but the extirpation of the rats and the consequent disappearance of the parasites that carry the bubonic poison from him to human beings, can ensure immunity' from this terrible disease. This fact alone, fraught as it is with the most momentous possibilities, would be sufficient to justify us in taking part in the war that has been proclaimed against the rat in Europe; and the recrudescence of the plague in Sydney tuis week should! serve to point the moral to the whole country, and urge us to renewed efforts j against one of the most insidious and dangerous foes that civilised man has still to face. j
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