Rats should be renamed to stop humans looking down on them, say French council bosses.
They reckon the rodents are victims of human prejudice and a new moniker would remove the stigma.
Douchka Markovic, who is responsible for animal welfare and pest control in Paris’ 18th district, called for the name change while opposing requests for a tougher extermination operation.
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She said: “They play an important role in the sewers by evacuating hundreds of tonnes of waste and unblocking the pipes.”
Rats outnumber people by nearly two to one in the French capital.
Markovic, a member of the city council’s Socialist-Greens coalition, told a meeting she called them “surmulots” – an ancient term for the common rat –because it had a “less negative sound”.
Markovic called on the city to stop trapping and poisoning them, and switch to ethical, non-lethal ways of controlling the population, including contraception.
But France’s National Academy of Medicine said rats posed a “threat to human health because of the numerous diseases they spread through parasites, excrement, bites and scratches”.
It added: “You can die from them.”
Paris and Marseilles in the south are among the most rat plagued in the world, the academy said.
It is calling for tougher eradication measures and greater efforts to clean up food waste.
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