When a brown plague covers the landscape

The rodents are damaging stored crops and there are reports of farmers being bitten in their beds. | Screencap via YouTube/BBC News

“I found these great videos, but don’t watch them before you eat.”

That was the advice I received a couple weeks ago from my friend D’Arce McMillan, The Western Producer’s long-time markets editor who has since retired but still writes a weekly column for our Markets section.

D’Arce was talking about videos showing what’s happening in Australia as the country combats a mouse population explosion of biblical proportions.

Farmers have been recording what they find when they open the doors of grain bins and uncover pails of grain that were allowed to sit out overnight — teeming, writhing masses of mice filling up entire spaces.

In recent years Australia had been in the news because of a drought that had significantly curtailed grain production across wide swaths of the country.

But then it got wet, and then the mice arrived — millions of them swarming across southern Queens-land, Victoria and South Australia.

The rodents are damaging stored crops and there are reports of farmers being bitten in their beds. Some have resorted to placing each leg of their beds in a bucket of sand or water to keep the plague out of their sheets.

This definitely falls into the category of “it can always be worse.”

Steve Henry, a mouse expert who has been advising farmers, said the infestation has been taking an emotional toll.

“People have become exhausted,” he told Richard Glover, a radio broadcaster in Sydney.

“There are mice in their linen press, in their pantry, running across their beds, eating their food. Every day, when they get up, there are mice. Every night, when they go to bed, there are mice.”

And if that wasn’t bad enough, animal rights extremists have decided to get in on the act.

Aleesha Naxakis, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told Australian media that the “bright, curious animals” were just looking for food to survive.

“They shouldn’t be robbed of that right because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy.”

Instead of poisoning the “innocent” rodents, Naxakis said farmers should set up humane traps to catch the mice alive so they could be released unharmed.

The response was scathing.

The “real rats” in this plague are the “people who come out with bloody stupid ideas like this,” said Michael McCormack, the country’s deputy prime minister.

Amen to that.

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