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How do we tackle poison-resistant super rats?

By Chris Choi: ITV News Consumer Editor

Where do you stand in the war on super rats?

When I walked into the edit suite, there it was. Newspapers have talked about it and experts have warned about it - there it was. ITV cameras had captured the first ever images of a live super rat. Now we can show the public exactly what is sparking the biggest debate in pest control for a generation.

The first live picture of a poison-resistant rat. Credit: ITV News

Forget what you may have seen in some of the tabloid reports, the super rat is not a giant. It usually looks no different from the older generations of rodent. Super rats have developed a genetic mutation allowing them to survive all the usual poisons. Sit up and take note - they may well already be on the streets where you live. We have new research showing there are now more of them in more areas of Britain than previously thought. Our findings (shown on ITV's Tonight documentary on June 26, 2014) come as officials debate whether to allow the wider use of stronger rat poisons.

Read: List of UK towns where rats are most resistant to poisons

As a reporter, what I dislike is big decisions being made by officials behind closed doors with little public scrutiny or involvement. When it comes to the battle of the super rats, the big choices are being made by panels of experts, trade bodies and government officials. Me and the team of producers at "Tonight" believe it is time the public is told about the debate.

Over the next few months as a society we must decide whether to allow much greater use of powerful rat poisons that can kill even the new super strain. The problem is that some campaigners say the poison will also get into Britain's wildlife chain, killing much loved species like barn owls and door mice.

Read: Are the rats in your town too powerful for poison?

It is a tough decision. I've met people who have experienced infestation by super rats, it is not nice. One homeowner told me the pests ate the usual poisons "as if it were candy". I've seen the horrid destruction rats can cause to a home and a family - and we show some very moving scenes in the "Tonight" documentary.

It would be an awful thing to say to these people that they cannot have access to the stronger chemicals. Old fashioned traps are fine, but experts say they are far less effective than the modern poisons. Traps only deal with one rat at a time and the rodents often develop a caution towards them.

On the other side of the argument are the wildlife campaigners who say there is clear evidence of poisons getting into the natural environment. I went on a walk through fields where barn owls fly and was even lucky enough to come face to face with one. These magnificent birds of prey have enough to deal with through road accidents, human building and climate change. Many of those who monitor the countryside say that stronger rat poison will bring mayhem.

They talk about a wide range of wild animals being accidentally poisoned - something the industry calls "non-target species".

By the end of this summer the decision on rat poisons will be made.

It is still not too late for you to take a side and make you voice known.

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