A farmer has revealed the mouse plague has gotten so bad in one area that the rodents have begun eating each other, as the Prime Minister lashed out at “dopey” animal rights activists for pleading with farmers not to use poison against the vermin.
Scott Morrison’s comments came after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the “bright and curious” mice shouldn’t be poisoned and that accepting such a death for the rodents would amount to agreeing with “the dangerous notion of human supremacy”.
“It’s just one thing after another (for the farmers). And, apart from the comments being, I think very insensitive to the plight that those farmers are going through, I just think they’re pretty dopey,” Mr Morrison told the 2GB radio station on Wednesday.
It comes as Gunnedah, NSW farmer Xavier Martin revealed the numbers of mice in his fields had gotten so extreme some of the mice had resorted to eating each other.
“They eat each others’ heads off, and then by the time they get to the lungs and heart they tend to leave it,” said Mr Martin, who is also the vice president of Farmers NSW, an organisation that has been advocating for help to stem the mouse plague.
“You’ll find the lower half of a mouse left behind – so you still have to clean it up.”
Aleesha Naxakis, the PETA spokeswoman whose comments on Tuesday sparked fury among many people battling the plague, was asked what she thought of the reports of mouse cannibalism.
“People can ask what’s worse,” she responded.
“Do we poison the mice and subject them to a gruelling, painful death where they can’t breathe, bleed internally, and where it can take them hours or days to die?
“Or do we let them eat each other because there isn’t enough food?
“At the end of the day, we’re an animal rights organisation and we definitely don’t want to see the animals suffering in any way.
“For us the real question we need to be asking is, why did the government wait so long to do something about this?”
Mr Martin, too, said the government should have acted sooner.
“This is now a plague because the government hasn’t acted and NSW Farmers have been telling them about it for months,” he said.
“We could have dealt with the problem early and stopped it turning into a plague.”
The NSW government last week announced an aid package for rural communities struggling to contain the mice.
The $50m package offers free grain treatment for farmers and rebates for small businesses paying out of pocket for bait.
This year’s mouse plague is on track to become as bad as an infestation in 1993 that ended up costing $96m in damage, according to the federal research agency CSIRO.