This article appeared in the February 28, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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A too-big rat, a too-small hole, a just-right act of compassion

Berufstierrettung Rhein Neckar/Reuters
Firefighters worked to free a rat stuck in a manhole cover in Bensheim-Auerbach, Germany, Feb. 24, in this screenshot taken from social media.

Sewer rats are usually seen as vermin so vile they should be exterminated. But one rat garnered a different reaction when an evocative photo – and a heartwarming story to go with it – made the rounds on the internet this week.

The image depicts the plight of a rather rotund rat that got stuck in a manhole cover in Germany on Sunday. In the picture, the rat, with the front half of its body stuck above ground, has its mouth agape as if to shout “help me!” to anyone who might pass by.

The rat’s shrill pleas were answered first by children, then by rescue workers from a local animal nonprofit. But they couldn’t free the rat, so a group of volunteer firefighters suited up and came to the rescue.

Similar tales of humans coming to imperiled animals’ aid fill the internet. Two recent examples: baby flamingos that were airlifted out of extreme drought conditions in South Africa, and a social media plea to find rescuers for a stunned hawk in downtown Manhattan.

These stories highlight humanity’s deep capacity for compassion. And our ability to extend that empathy to other species, philosophers have argued, could also reinforce our compassion for each other.

Now to our five stories for today. 

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This article appeared in the February 28, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/28 edition