Many buyers throng the Sunday market at Kumarikata village in Baksa district, along the Indo-Bhutan border, about 90 km from Guwahati, to buy their favourite rat meat.
Rat is more popular than chicken and pork with the customers at the Sunday market. A rat vendor said that the meat is mainly sourced from neighbouring Nalbari and Barpeta districts of Assam.
Local farmers trap the rats, that weigh more than a kg each, at night during the harvesting season. They make traps made of bamboo, to prevent their fields from being damaged by the rats as they eat paddy and other crops.
The farmers claimed that the trapping of the rats was helping them to curb the growing menace of rodents in recent times.
Explaining the method of trapping the rats, a seller said the rodents are hunted at night when they come out of their holes and walk straight into the traps placed by the farmers at the entrance of the rat-holes. "Business is good as we can trap rats weighing 10kg to 20kg a night for selling it in the market," they said.
Mubina Akhtar, a wildlife conservation activist, has raised concerns over the sale of rat meat in these markets. "Although rodents are not protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, rats are nonetheless an important part of wildlife. Besides, you never know which protected animals are being sold in the name of rat meat," she said. "We are already experiencing what happened at a wet market in Wuhan. Now bird flu is spreading. Rats could be consuming bird droppings and spreading the infection. This should not be allowed under the nose of forest officials," she added.
If rat meat is not cooked well, they could be potential carrier. The spread of bird flu and Covid-19 have also raised concerns over the sale of rat meat in the state.