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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Emma Beddington

The ultimate woman for our time? Step forward, New York’s rat tsar

New sheriff in town … New York City ‘rat tsar’ Kathleen Corradi.
New sheriff in town … New York City ‘rat tsar’ Kathleen Corradi. Photograph: Bobby Caina Calvan/AP

I have a girl crush: Kathleen Corradi, NYC’s newly-appointed “rat tsar”. The former elementary school teacher responded to the city’s search for someone “bloodthirsty” enough to tackle the city’s all-time-high rodent population (primary school will do that to a person). At a press conference, Corradi, wearing shades and a black turtleneck, looked spectacularly badass as she declared, “You’ll be seeing a lot more of me – and a lot less rats … There’s a new sheriff in town.” Swoon.

I’m conflicted, though. I quite like rats and admire their initiative and intelligence as only someone who hasn’t had to share living space with them can. As a bleeding-heart animal lover, I sympathise with the Parisian animal rights group Zoopolis, which has campaigned to stop the massacre of municipal rats: surely there are more humane solutions, such as rat contraception. (Or, as one New Yorker cartoon suggested, “teach the rats ethical non-monogamy until none of the rats wants to settle down and procreate”.)

But then I read a recent New York Times account of what awaits Corradi: the rat that “parkoured” off a woman’s leg in her second-floor flat; the man bitten by a rat he was trying to rescue from his dog, or the woman who witnessed a fight to the death between two warring rats. These rodents are a special, elite breed in the mould of pizza rat, the furry legend filmed industriously dragging a New York slice down the subway stairs. They need a worthy adversary: Corradi.

Compare and contrast the rat we caught here, recently. I went into the garden to find my hens shrieking in horror at a chunky chap pottering around the borders. My husband baited and put out his humane rat trap – he’s worried about his tortoises getting nibbled, which is apparently a (horrifying) thing – and within minutes it was in there, looking baffled. He drove it to a field and let it out, where it remained motionless, still looking baffled. My husband now thinks he’s ready to come for Corradi’s crown; I just think old York rats wouldn’t last a second on the streets of New York.

• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist

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