Researchers show common methods of rat control often fail to consider animal welfare impacts
New research from The University of Oxford and published today in the journal Animal Welfare reveals which rat management methods are better and worse for animal welfare in rat control.
Many millions of rats and mice are estimated to be killed globally as ‘pests’ every year. However, little information is available on the animal welfare impacts of different rat control methods.
The new research assessed and compared the relative animal welfare impacts of different rat control methods. The study found that some commonly used methods of rat control produce very poor welfare outcomes for rats. The findings will help inform decision-making in rat management to reduce animal welfare impacts.
Dr Sandra Baker, who led the research, facilitated online workshops with stakeholders, including experts in rodent control, animal welfare science and veterinary science and medicine.
During the workshops, Dr Baker guided the experts in using a tool to assess the welfare impacts of six different methods of lethal rat control. These included lethal snap trapping, glue trapping followed by concussive killing, live (cage) trapping followed by concussive killing and three baiting methods - two types of rodenticide poisoning (anticoagulants and cholecalciferol) and non-toxic cellulose baiting (which disrupts digestive systems, resulting in lethal dehydration).
Based on existing data and discussions among the stakeholders at the workshops, the stakeholders produced a relative welfare impact score for each method.
What did they find out?
Glue trapping and the three baiting methods, including anticoagulant poisons, produced the poorest welfare outcomes, and should be considered a last resort from a welfare perspective. Importantly, glue trapping and anticoagulant poisoning are commonly used rat control methods. The
research comes at an important moment as the proposed Glue Traps (Offences) Bill may restrict the use of these devices in England if it passes into law. Similar restrictions are being considered in Scotland and Wales.
Cage trapping followed by concussive killing scored better welfare outcomes. The impact of snap trapping was assessed as being highly variable, depending on the traps used, but good quality snap traps could potentially produce the best welfare outcome if used appropriately.
Dr Baker explains: “Huge numbers of rats are killed globally every year and rat management may represent the greatest anthropogenic impact on wild animal welfare. Rats are sentient animals and their suffering should be minimised where possible in rat control.”
“Our findings will help rat controllers, whether professionals or members of the public, to better integrate consideration of rat welfare alongside other factors, including cost, efficacy, safety, non-target animal welfare and public acceptability when selecting rat management methods"
To read more about this research, published in Animal Welfare, please visit: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/ufaw/aw/2022/00000031/00000001/art00005.
Dr Baker has also updated UFAW’s online guidance which provides information for members of the public who want to control a rodent infestation humanely: www.ufaw.org.uk/rodentcontrol
This research was funded by UFAW (the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare), the AWF (the Animal Welfare Foundation) and the Elinor Patterson Baker Foundation. The study was also supported by UKRI ERA-NET RodentGate project, the UKRI MRC GCRF rodent zoonosis control project and the African Union EcoRodMan project.