There are said to be 6 million rats in Paris. I met one last week when I was retrieving some winter clothes from a bag in my cellar. Neither of us was particularly keen to make the other’s acquaintance.
Such a brief encounter may not please the socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. In the summer her office announced the establishment of a committee to study how the city’s three million human inhabitants can learn to “cohabit” with their furry neighbors.
Animal rights’ groups and green politicians expressed their satisfaction that the societal scourge of rat shaming is finally being challenged. Paris councillor Douchka Markovic has said the word “rat” is pejorative and she wants them renamed “surmulots.” She added that rats are “useful” in the ecosystem.
One initiative already underway is a research project involving the Natural History Museum, the Pasteur Institute and the Sorbonne, the purpose of which is to “combat prejudices to help Parisians live better with rats.” What form this unconscious bias training will take has yet to be revealed.
Paris has long boasted that the 2024 Games will showcase the city’s ‘inclusion and diversity’. Who knew that would stretch to rats and bugs?
In the meantime another invasion of Paris is happening: the summer bedbugs have been spreading their vestigial wings throughout the city. Described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as “among the most cosmopolitan of human parasites,” the bugs’ presence was first felt in cinemas when they feasted on movie-goers. One cinema chain apologized, disinfected its theatres and promised “there is no more risk in our rooms than in any other public place in Paris.”
Having taken in a film, the cosmopolitan parasites are now riding the metro and the overground train in Paris, seeing the city’s sights while snacking on passengers. A metro driver has reported being bitten in his cab and, according to a report in Le Figaro, the spread of the bugs is such “that professionals are starting to worry.”
Unlike many Parisians, who have long complained about the discomfort and cramped conditions of the metro, the bed bugs are so appreciative of “the fabrics of certain seats” that they lay their eggs inside. On average a female bed bug lays around 200 eggs in a single reproductive cycle, and three generations may be produced in a year.
Stéphane Bras, an expert in pest control, told Le Figaro that there has been a marked increase in parasite infestation. “We’ve been warning about the resurgence of bedbugs for several years now,” said Bras, who accused the authorities of not heeding these warnings.
They are now, mindful of what is happening in Paris next year. On Thursday, one of Hidalgo’s deputies wrote to Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to inform her of a “significant upsurge” in bedbugs and demanding a plan of action at “a time when the whole of France is preparing to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.” On Friday morning Clément Beaune, the minister of transport, announced that he will hold a meeting next week to examine how best to tackle the bugs.
Paris has long boasted that the 2024 Games will showcase the city’s “inclusion and diversity.” Who knew that would stretch to rats and bugs? Time for a new Olympic motto? Citius, Altius, Fortius, Rattus.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.