While rats have earned a bad reputation both nationally and abroad, it’s important to remember that they are true opportunists simply trying to survive in the human-dominated world in which they find themselves. They must eat, and so they seek out the most efficient means of feeding themselves. All too often, we humans unintentionally, or perhaps carelessly, position our own food items as easy targets. Rats take advantage of the situation in the same way we would if we found ourselves hungry and left to our own devices.

Thievery it may be, but it is the product of a world we created, and one we continue to manifest every time we don’t place the utmost effort into protecting our food from possible invasion. That’s too cumbersome, we say. It’s ours, and they should find another way, we say. But there we go again, proclaiming our supremacy above all other species when, in fact, we are equals in many more ways than we are dissimilar. Both species require oxygen to breathe and nutrition to survive. Both species bond with and care for their friends and families, and both like to have a good time. Our two species have even been shown to have similar brain function. We were all created to thrive on this earth, and rats have as much a reason to be here as anyone.

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That’s why this demeaning punishment of a rat by a store owner in Heyuan City in southern China is so unacceptable.

 

When he caught the rat stealing rice, he tied her up to a trolly, strung by all four limbs, with a sign that read, “I won’t dare do this again,” and later, changed the sign to read, “Huh, is this the best you could do? Even if you beat me to death, I would not admit that the rice at your home had been stolen by me.” Needless to say, this scene played out for a long time.

 
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When questioned, the shop owner replied, “It was just a rat, and this was a small incident.” But small incident or not, this rat is a living, breathing being like you and me, inherently driven to survive by its own faculty.

And, small incident or not, this is not a one-off event. In fact, this type of treatment, and much worse, is perpetrated on rats throughout not just China, but the world. It’s time we start treating all living creatures, including the “pesky” rat, with the respect and honor all fellow earth-dwellers deserve – perhaps even going so far as to lend them a helping hand, like a group of artists called AnonyMouse have done in Sweden.

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Image source: Haiwen5520/Weibo

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