Monday, January 30, 2017

The Billion Dollar Mouse Problem

This may seem like quite a mundane post, but it's actually quite an important one to me, and one I've been meaning to write for a while. It concerns the problem of mouse infestations - I know, quite a prosaic topic. I've worked at quite a lot of normal jobs over the years and I've noticed that this is a big problem pretty much everywhere, especially in retail and restaurant work.

I'm a vegetarian and quite hostile to the idea of killing innocent animals, however, at the same time practical experience tells me that this is a real problem, and one that companies and small businesses can't not deal with.

If you have a problem with mice, but aren't prepared to literally kill these little animals what can you do? The answer is, at the moment, very little. Apart from keeping things tidy and making it hard for mice to get access to food, it really is pretty much a case of exterminate or let them run riot. This is especially the case for businesses that can't afford to devote hours of man power doing all the little things that might help keep mice at bay - and this is pretty much all businesses these days.

On top of this extermination is never a complete solution - as mice will keep coming back as long as there's an environment in which they can thrive, no matter how many are killed.

It's like throwing down bird seed in the garden. You could get rid of every bird in your garden one day, but as long as there is food on the floor more will keep coming no matter how many you get rid of.

Now the obvious solution is to run a tidy ship and keep things nice and clean. However, in our bustling, interconnected world no business is an island. You can do everything in your power to limit the conditions for mice, but if the businesses next door are not following the same strict protocols you'll still suffer from their negligence. And more to the point your business will suffer more as the added expense you're going to in trying to tackle the problem is making you less competitive than your more cavalier neighbours.

So for me this is a very big problem that needs a solution. For personal and moral reasons I deem it an absolute tragedy that so many innocent and sentient mice are being killed daily. It's an endless cruelty that underpins our entire economy and is unacceptable in my opinion.

There's also the business imperative. Think of how much stock is written off on a daily basis due to mouse damage across the UK. Add to this the sheer number of man hours spent everyday trying to tackle the problem, not to mention the cost of the resources needed. I would love to see the figures on what it costs the economy on a yearly basis.

There's also the simple fact of how unfair it makes the marketplace. Companies that spend money dealing with the issue, or that go the extra mile to deal with the issue in an ethical way suffer, whilst laissez faire, profit obsessed companies fuel the problem for everyone else.

All the discount chains and takeaways that now proliferate on our high streets are creating havens of mice and rat infestation. It's impossible for any conscientious business to insulate themselves from this.

So what can be done? Surely we are intelligent enough to find more elegant solutions to this problem. I would say that first of all the problem needs recognising and raising to public discussion. Although it's not a glamorous topic to talk about I think politicians need to bring it to prominence. I also think that governments should allocate much more money to not only tackling the problem, but also to pushing new technologies and ideas to take things forward. We need a smarter attitude to this problem.

There should also be policies in place that reward businesses that try to deal with this issue in a progressive and ethical way. Likewise the interconnected nature of the problem needs recognising.

For my two cents one simple and practical thing that could be done is to regulate the packaging that pet and bird foods come in. Often the packaging that say a large bag of birdseed comes in is very flimsy and easily ripped (or nibbled through). Such poor packaging makes it very easy for mice to get access to food. Obviously most people are much less fussy about the food they buy for outdoor wildlife or household pets than they are when it comes to food they buy for themselves and their family. This means there's much less of an impetus for companies to go to the extra expense of providing decent packaging for these products.

It may sound like a small inconsequential thing, but at two separate places I've worked the mouse problem has started around the pet and bird food section. It's a real weak link in the chain. It could be so easily plugged.

To conclude, it seems no-one really appreciates the scale of this problem, or the potential reward of working around it, but it's costing the economy a lot of money, and leading to the endless unnecessary suffering of countless mice.

The daily mouse massacre is an unseen added cost to almost every transaction we make.

No comments:

Post a Comment