Thursday 12 July 2018


It Is a fact of life,if you keep poultry, you will have rats. In fact if you keep almost any kind of stock you will, sooner or later, attract rats. Apart from the obvious health hazards associated with rats they are a major nuisance in that they chew things and they dig holes all over the place. They nest in hay or straw stacks and generally do a lot of damage. The most effective way of dealing with a rat population is to poison it. You go to your local agricultural dealer and buy a box /bucket of rat "Bait" which you then administer and after a few days when you notice that the said bate is not being eaten the rats will be dead or dying. Of course, we old country boys who have dealing with these creatures for years also pursue them with air rifles and terriers, and some, even use ferrets for a bit of ratting. All good fun, but not really effective in getting rid of a rat infestation. 

Having had poultry of some form or another for most of my years on this earth I have used rat bait for as long as I care to remember. As with all things there are right and wrong ways of using these substances. It is, of course, important to ensure that other animals cannot,and do not, eat rat bait. It will, for example, kill a dog. It, therefore, always needs to be used with caution and by following the instructions on the container it comes in. In order to protect wild birds, and indeed poultry, the bait should be administered in covered containers into which rats can gain access but, other creatures cannot. These containers have inner compartments which help to prevent spillage if the container is knocked over or overturned. So there you have it, all fairly straight forward, you may think,and yes it should be. Well it used to be until, that is, the politicians got involved.

Let me say straight away I am not a political person and the following is not political in that sense. I have a fairly simple view of politicians, of all shades and persuasions, I don’t like them. For the most part they are dishonest chancers, most of whom have never had a proper job or done a decent days work. I would be more inclined to trust a secondhand car salesman. If you think this is all a bit extreme let me remind you of the expenses fiddles and the fact that nearly all of them got away with it claiming ignorance or misunderstanding. Excuses that would, most certainly, not be available to you and I in similar circumstances. If all that were not enough look at their lavish redecoration expense for grace and favour housing and their,even more lavish, "fact finding" trips around the world. Not to mention, the many corporate jollies and gifts they receive. All, of course, perfectly legal … nice. 

What, you may ask, has all this got to do with rats ? Well, I discovered, a few months ago that rat bait legislation was changing. I found this out when I went to buy some in the usual way, and was told, by the person serving me, soon I would need a certificate / licence to continue to purchase rat bait. That was the first bit, soon thereafter, came another announcement advising that the strength of rat bait was going to be reduced.

Having been using rat bait for over fifty years, one might consider, I knew a little bit about its use. However , I took one of the glossy brochures providing all the info a user needed to comply with the new rules. It quickly became apparent that in order to gain the, now necessary, certificate of competence an exam was required and a fee of £65 would have to be paid. So, a new bureaucratic system costing people, that neither want or need rat bait instruction, a hefty sum and, no doubt, lining the pockets of those providing the advice. I declined their kind offer refusing to be ripped off in this appalling manner. Consider if you will, some months in the winter, when rats come in from the fields and hedgerows, it can cost me in the region of thirty pounds a month to keep them down, I only have three acres. Goodness knows what the costs are to a large farm, they must be huge.

It would appear that a number of politicians, I haven’t bothered to find out who they are, succumbed to lobbying by an ornithological society claiming misuse of rat bait was killing wild birds. This might well be the case, there are, and always will be abusers and misusers of almost anything you can think of. Sadly that is a fact of life. It is also a fact of life that those same abusers will not comply with the rules and will not take, and pay for, a test. All that is achieved in such situations is, quite simply, careful users, following the rules, will be penalised and hit in the pocket. Just look at what previous political bans have achieved, pistols are banned in this country, more gun crime than ever before. Knives for young people under eighteen are banned, more knife crime than ever before. A whole list of drugs are banned, the country is awash with illegal drugs. Quite simply, banning does not, and never has worked.

The problem is, politicians always know best. I did consider writing to my local M.P. and, after due reflection, abandoned the idea. I don’t write to M.P.s often, only twice in the whole of my life. Each time it proved to be a complete waste of time and paper. You see, on both occasions I was wrong and did not fully understand the matters about which I was writing. I was told the M.P.s were right, it just so happens that both are no longer M.P.s, having lost their seats. One having been involved in a scandal over mistakenly buying and expensive carpet on taxpayer funded expenses, who then retired, and the other being kicked out by the electorate for basically being a complete waste of space. The good news is, the latter did get a Knighthood for his failure, you know it makes sense, lovely system we have! Incidentally, both of the matters I wrote about did come to pass and the fears I had expressed were realised. I fear we have two as well as four legged rats in our midst.

So it was that my rat population exploded. Not having received their normal dose of bait, they did what rats do and bred. I found myself surrounded by the nasty creatures. Off I went to the agricultural merchant only to find the bait available to me was now being sold in tiny packages of a few grams and priced at the hefty price of a pound a packet. Translate that into the weight I once was able to buy, three kilos, and the price becomes eye watering. The agri merchants  are as bad as the M.Ps, never miss a chance to fleece someone. I had considered getting my future supplies of rat bait from France, where common sense still seems to prevail but, fortunately, I have found a supplier where I can obtain the normal stuff at the usual price ! Didn’t they do well. Rat problem solved. It would appear there are, would you believe, loopholes in the legislation so, pretty much, business as usual. 

Just a final thought, I doubt very much if the people this cock-up was aimed at are doing anything differently in terms of care. It might just be they are doing nothing at all and the rat population in their areas is growing apace. When, as I suspect it will, it reaches epidemic proportions you will, no doubt, be treated to the inglorious spectacle of the Honourable M.P.s responsible diving down their own rat holes and blaming everyone else.  

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