Belfast's rat scourge is a human problem
Thousands of people have viewed the shocking images of rats rummaging around a Belfast city centre coffee shop late at night. The footage of the rodents in Caffe Nero in Donegall Square West was filmed by a young couple and made available to the Belfast Telegraph.
Those who haven't yet viewed the footage should try to see it, as it provides astonishing images of an almost primitive scene of the vermin on the loose in a popular coffee shop.
Since we broke the story, the Caffe Nero chain has closed the premises and is carrying out an investigation.
A spokesperson said that the problem appears to have arisen from a disused building adjacent to its coffee ship.
This could have happened to many other businesses.
The whole incident has brought to the public's attention the serious problem of rats in our midst. A professional pest controller has revealed that its members receive callouts from Belfast businesses at least five times a week.
He has also revealed that the number of rats in the city is increasing.
He shared the astonishing statistic that only one pair of breeding rats - if left undisturbed in favourable conditions - could produce up to 2,000 offspring within the space of just a year.
The problem is apparent to all, but the question is: what do we do about it? The professional rat-catcher, Ray Kennedy, does not blame only the rodents, but also our own social habits, which helps them to thrive among us. He pointed out that the presence of rats in human society is a problem of historic proportions, and he suggested that if we continue to provide them with plentiful amounts of wasted food and other life-giving supplies, the rats are bound to not only survive, but also to breed and expand in number.
The background is not unlike that of the recent controversy about aggressive seagulls, during which conservation and wildlife experts pointed out that the bad behaviour of some of these birds was also due to the bad habits of many members of the public, who were careless about disposing of unwanted food.
We must do all we can not to encourage these distasteful airborne and earth-bound pests, and to remain vigilant about how we take care of our own food supplies. This is a problem facing us all.