Mice have started eating each other as a rodent plague sweeps across rural Australia.
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison branded animal rights activists who urged farmers not to poison them "pretty dopey", news.com.au reports.
Farmer Xavier Martin revealed the numbers of mice in his fields had gotten so extreme some of the mice had become cannibals in Gunnedah, New South Wales.
The vice president of Farmers NSW said: “They eat each others’ heads off, and then by the time they get to the lungs and heart they tend to leave it.
“You’ll find the lower half of a mouse left behind – so you still have to clean it up.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) faced criticism after pleading with farmers not to kill mice ravaging their fields.
Spokeswoman Aleesha Naxaki on Tuesday said: “These bright, curious animals are just looking for food to survive.
“They shouldn’t be robbed of that right because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy.
“In the meantime, we urge farmers and residents to avoid poisoning these animals."
Asked what she thought of the reports of mouse cannibalism, she replied: “People can ask what’s worse.
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“Do we poison the mice and subject them to a gruelling, painful death where they can’t breathe, bleed internally, and where it can take them hours or days to die?
“Or do we let them eat each other because there isn’t enough food?
“At the end of the day, we’re an animal rights organisation and we definitely don’t want to see the animals suffering in any way.
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“For us the real question we need to be asking is, why did the government wait so long to do something about this?”
PM Morrison told the 2GB radio station: “It’s just one thing after another (for the farmers). And, apart from the comments being, I think very insensitive to the plight that those farmers are going through, I just think they’re pretty dopey."
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has blasted PETA, saying: “The real rats in this whole plague are the people who come out with bloody stupid ideas like this.
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“Their thinking around this is reprehensible, when you have farmers struggling.
“You have these people who have never left the city and wouldn’t know if their backside was on fire, then all of a sudden they’re telling farmers what to do?
“The only good mouse is a dead mouse.”
The NSW government last week announced an aid package for rural communities struggling to contain the mice.
The $50m package offers free grain treatment for farmers and rebates for small businesses paying out of pocket for bait.
This year’s mouse plague is on track to become as bad as an infestation in 1993 that ended up costing $96m in damage, according to the federal research agency CSIRO.
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