Saturday, 12 March 2016

Blown out of proportion: Rats to the tabloid press.

If there is one thing the Daily Mail loves more than inaccurate science reporting, cancer cures/causes and thinly veiled bigotry it's giant rats. Between April 2015 and today, the paper has ran with at least five prominent stories about plagues of over-sized rodents. The latest regarding a rat found in a playground in East London, being of particular interest to me as it's now been picked up by most major news outlets and is burning up a storm on social media with very few people picking up the obvious flaw in the tale (snigger).

The rodent dubbed "the hackney rat"(pictured below) was found by gas engineer Tony Smith who photographed  his electrician pal James holding the carcass in a litter picker. They were, from what I can tell from most versions of the story, the only two who saw it. Tony has also neatly copyrighted the photo. No wonder James is smiling.

See if you can immediately spot my issue with this supposedly monstrous beast.


Let's have the excellent Dermot Morgan as Father Ted Crilly explain the crux of the issue:


Most reports are claiming that it was four feet long, but the only verification of this comes from Tony and his mate James... as they stand to profit from this attention they are not likely to downplay the size are they?

The Mirror concedes that perspective maybe an issue, as do some of the other reports:
"In the picture, the rodent is being at arm's length and close to the camera, making it hard to gauge how big it really is."
But they really don't go far enough. James is holding the rat in a litter picker the lengths of which  range from 75 cm to 100cm which is also around 3ft. Factoring in his arm length, James is stood, potentially, up to five feet away from the camera! Due to the angle of James' arm to the picker the distance is likely less than this, but you get the point. Arm's length doesn't cut it.

Also, Tony claims it weighed 25 lbs, which is around 11 kg. I very much doubt that the litter picker could have held that kind of weight. Also held out like that, James should be finding it difficult to keep upright. The largest rats in the world weigh between 1 -1,5kg. Are we seriously to believe this specimen is up to ten times the size of the largest known individuals of the largest species of rat? It's almost twice the weight of the largest prehistoric rat species even!

 Here's how Hackney council brilliantly responded to concerns about the "hackney rat" on twitter:


I for one wish the tabloid press and social media would forget this kind of nonsense and focus on more pressing issues, such as the spate of two-headed dinosaur sightings on our beaches.


Let's get real people...