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Rats: Beneficial or Not?

When we talk about rats, what is the first thing that comes into our mind? For most that I have talked to, one thing that suddenly pops out in their minds when they hear the word rat is "pest". This is because rats have been long known as the ones responsible of destroying things in a household or building. They are fond of gnawing on walls just to pass through and have access to their food and home.

Rats have different implications in every culture. For most, rats are generally negative. Sometimes, people use the term "rat" as a vulgar expression or an insult. People who have a cruel personality are being likened to a rat because many believed that rats are unclean, nasty, and opportunistic. What rats usually do is just damage or steal food supplies and other goods. Moreover, they have been known to spread diseases like leptospirosis, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), rat-bite fever (RBF), and many others.  These are the reasons why people are very determined to eradicate rats in their surroundings.

In contrast, other cultures view rats as high and mighty. For example, in India, they look at rats as vehicles of their God, Ganesha. Rats are allowed to stay and roam around the temples. They are believed to be reincarnated as holy men. Priests feed them well, and afterwards, they also eat the rats' leftovers because they consider that foods touched by rats are blessings from their God.

In Chinese culture also, rats are famous in the sense that they are intelligent, creative, and playful. People who are born in the year of the rat are characterized as smart, gregarious, quick-witted, protective, and furtive.  Due to these impressive characteristics, they are also well-liked by many. These Chinese predictions are paralleled to the typical rodents, the rats. Rats know exactly how to handle or take care of themselves. They can find solutions to their problems by using their senses. That is why we have difficulty exterminating them because they cannot easily be fooled.

In terms of science, rats have contributed much in our knowledge today about several facts. These rodents are used in experiments for a long time already. From our discovery about genetics and medicine, to understanding behaviors, all these have to do with rats. Scientists named rats used in experiments as "lab rats". For example, if experts want to know how effective their newly explored drug is, they test it to rats first, and then observe it for a period of time, before really using it to humans. Also, in psychology, rats are being used to explain behaviors of people. For this reason, we now have B.F. Skinner's theory on behaviorism. In addition, because of the rats' good sense of smell and attitude that is easy to be trained, they are also used lately in tuberculosis detection and landmines.

Not only in culture and science that rat is contributory. Due to the vast number of rats, some people consider rats in their diet also. Although this is a taboo because of the diseases that may spread and some religious factors, there are still those who are hooked to rat's meat. In some parts of Hawaii, rat's meat is an everyday dish for commoners. Other places also have commercialized rat's meat and made it as an exotic delicacy.

In this world that we live in, it is not only us who are living. Just like us, rats coexist with the ecosystem and may possess positive impact to the society. Even though we can't deny its sneaky and destructive behavior in our household and offices, we still have to consider that they have the right to be treated humanely. If you want to get rid of them in your surrounding where you find them harming, it is better to deter those rodents using natural and eco-friendly methods. In this way, you are not only preventing rats from destroying your goods, but you are helping them not to really be eliminated from this world.
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