From France, where PETA must have a cousin:
Jacques Peyrat, the outspoken mayor of Nice, caused added offence to the SPA, the national society for the protection of animals, by congratulating himself on his work in the local paper.
He spotted the well-nourished rat during an official visit to a rubbish collection point in the city's old quarter close to the seafront.
He told Nice Matin that he grabbed a shovel and used it to "smash" the rat. "I cannot stand those animals," he explained.
Mr Peyrat's confession outraged the Alpes Maritimes section of the SPA, which lodged a criminal complaint with the prosecutors. If it leads to a court case, he could be fined up to £2,100.
The society accepted that "a huge rat-clearing operation" was necessary, but said the killing amounted to cruelty. The mayor's subsequent "boasting" was an incitement to others to act in similar fashion.
Serge Belais, national president of the SPA, said: "If it's accepted that people can mistreat rats today, then tomorrow it will be birds and cats."
An aide to Mr Peyrat, a former member of the National Front and now a senator for the UMP party, said: "We are not taking this seriously."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
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