PETA has once again turned to a billboard in Baltimore to promote its opposition to “speciesism,” this time with a “rat” theme.
President Donald Trump called Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess,” even though his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns several local apartment buildings where residents complain that rats run rampant, according to news reports and a press release issued by the organization. Now, a PETA billboard is up in the city that makes the point that there’s a difference between a “rich pest” and “a poor fella just trying to survive on crumbs.”
The use of the billboard generated follow-up media coverage, extending attention to the message through the local and national news reports.
“Smart, social, resourceful rats who are just trying to eke out an existence suffer when entitled landlords neglect humane rodent-control measures,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA encourages building managers to evict unwanted tiny tenants using only effective, nonlethal methods.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that rat mothers are excellent, protective caregivers who sing to their babies and that rats giggle when tickled and can feel as much pain as any other mammal, including humans. The group also offers the following tips for humane rodent control:
- New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., have seen success with recently launched pilot programs administering ingestible birth control in rat-populated areas instead of poison, rendering male rats infertile and causing females to reach menopause more quickly.
- Johns Hopkins University researchers who studied rat populations suggest that another effective way to control rat populations is to reduce the amount of food, water, and shelter available. Maryland law states that those removing animals from buildings must “employ the most humane method” available.
- Landlords should provide sturdy, well-sealed containers that rats can’t chew through for all food waste and other garbage.
- Guardians should feed animal companions indoors (and pick up the dishes when they’ve finished eating).
- Property managers should trim back vegetation around buildings, stack wood in tight piles away from the house, and seal holes larger than a quarter inch in diameter, cracks in the walls and floors, and gaps around doors, windows, and plumbing.
- After rat-proofing the building, residents should live-trap and remove any rats still inside. They can use a commercially available Havahart trap or make their own. They must check the trap hourly and release any captured rats within 100 yards of where they were caught.
The billboard is located on N. Gay Street, 120 feet south of the intersection with E. Saratoga Street, near City Hall, the Baltimore Central District Police Department, the District Court of Maryland, and the Housing Authority and City Department of Transportation offices.
Last summer, as part of a nationwide campaign to encourage diners to leave crabs and other sea animals off dinner plates and in their aquatic homes, PETA erected a billboard near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that shows a colorful crab next to the words “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan.” The ad was close to several seafood restaurants—including Phillips Seafood, Mo’s Fisherman’s Wharf, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
In response, Jimmy’s Famous Seafood erected its own billboard, reading: “SteaMEd crabs. Here to stay. Get famous.”
John Minadakis of Jimmy’s Famous Seafood took particular offense to the billboard, which was put up right before the Baltimore Seafood Festival. “As small business owners, we felt compelled to defend our history and livelihood from this unprovoked attack,” he told Baltimore’s Fox 45 News. “My father built this landmark with his bare hands. Our family was raised in this business, and literally grew up on the second floor of the building.”