Then & Now: Rats' Tales

Saturday 12 June 1993 23:02
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1665: The Company of Parish Clerks for London records that 68,596 people died of the Plague in one year. It was not until 1894 that the Plague bacillus was identified; some years after that, fleas from rats were identified as the carriers. In September, Samuel Pepys wrote to Lady Carteret and described the devastation in London:

'I have stayed in the city till above 7,400 died in one week, and of them above six-thousand of the Plague, and little noise heard day or night but tolling of bells; till I could walk Lumber (Lombard) Street and not meet twenty persons from one end to the other, and not above fifty upon the Exchange; till whole families, ten or twelve together, have been swept away; till my very physician, Dr Burnett, who undertook to secure me against the infection, having survived the month of his own house being shut up, died himself of the Plague; till the nights though much lengthened, are grown too short to conceal the burials of those that died the day before, people being thereby constrained to borrow daylight for that service; lastly till I could find neither meat nor drink safe, the butcheries being everywhere visited, my brewer's house shut up, and my baker with his whole family dead of the Plague. Yet, Madam, through God's blessing, your poor servant is in a perfect state of health.'

June 1993: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals successfully prosecuted Lisa Chapman, who left her pet rat, Ziggy, for six days without food or water. She was fined pounds 80 for causing the rat unnecessary suffering.

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