Archive for August 5th, 2009

Cretaceous mud slinging

August 5, 2009

In which we ponder whether extinct prehistoric reptiles can sue for libel in the English courts. After all, everybody else can.

Via Frank the Science Punk’s mini-blog, I have just read this shocking story about the well-known dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex:

T rex offended

T. rex “mostly ate babies”

(see also the original story in the Independent by noted science journalist Steve “lofty medics” Connor)

Frank suggests that T. rex is clearly in urgent need of a PR agency.

I have a slightly different suggestion.

Since the allegation that T. rex ate babies is clearly injurious to the dinosaur’s reputation, T. rex should engage a good reputation management law firm – a couple of options are  here and here, the latter lot being Matthias Rath’s libel lawyers of choice, though there are plenty of other options too – and file a libel suit in the English courts with all haste.

With any luck, the case will be heard by an eminent legal mind, and this shameful slander upon the reputation of one of our best loved prehistoric carnivores can be shown for the premeditated attempt at (Cretaceous) mud-slinging that it is.

A spokesman for the popular dinosaur and family favourite assured Dr Aust that “sales of T. rex soft toys and other branded merchandise have not been damaged” and that “movie tie-ins are not in danger”, but also said that the dinosaur was “looking into” the question of defending its reputation, if necessary through legal action. Reading a prepared statement, the spokesman added:

“With rights come responsibility and scientists must realise that they cannot simply publish with impunity what they know to be untrue and libellous”

T. rex itself was unavailable for comment.

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PS  The paper from which the Independent story derives is in a paleontology journal called Lethaia. The abstract of the paper is here, and here is some background on the debate about what T. rex might have eaten.  I shall look forward to seeing  in due course if blogger and Nature “fossils editor” Henry Gee has anything to say about the “T. rex was a babykiller” story.