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Peter Rabbit film 'wrong' to show 'allergy bullying' scene

Article By: Michaela Chirgwin

A controversial scene in the new film Peter Rabbit, which depicts a man with an allergy being ‘bullied’, has led to charities and parents calling for people to boycott the film.

Credit: Lev Radin/ Screening of Peter Rabbit at Regal Cinema Battery Park.

Allergy support groups voiced their anger over the scene, where the farmer Tom McGregor, who has a serious allergy to blackberries is pelted by the fruit, resulting in an anaphylactic shock.

This makes light of the potentially life-threatening effect of allergies and may encourage other children watching the film to copy the stunt, say allergy awareness campaigners.

In reaction to the social media campaign #boycottpeterrabbit and a petition which has received thousands of signatures, Sony Pictures released a statement admitting it was ‘wrong’ to depict allergies in this way. It said 'food allergies are a serious issue' and that the film should 'not have made light of a character being allergic to blackberries even in a cartoonish, slapstick way'.

The film is based on the much-loved Beatrix Potter book called the ‘Tale of Peter Rabbit’ which chronicles the life of a ‘mischievous’ rabbit who is always getting into trouble by stealing from Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch. This is despite being warned by his mother that "your father had an accident there, he was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor".

The ‘offending scene’ in the film is where Peter Rabbit is typically causing trouble for Mr McGregor and his family. The objection to the scene is that Mr McGregor is deliberately targeted by the rabbit, who knows he has a blackberry allergy, but pelts him with the fruit anyway. This results in Mr McGregor having an anaphylactic shock and needing an EpiPen injection.

On its Facebook page, the American charity, Kids with Food Allergies Foundation says: “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.

“KFA believes that food allergy 'jokes' are harmful to our community. During a reaction, patients require the life-saving drug epinephrine and must go to the nearest hospital for follow-up treatment. The very real fear and anxiety that people experience during an allergic reaction (often referred to as an impending sense of doom) is a serious matter.”

The scene has also upset many parents that have children with serious allergies, and they too have taken to social media. One parent on twitter compared the incident to “force-feeding” a diabetic child with sugar. @jamiefid, a mum with a child with food allergies said in her tweet:

Some social media commentators though couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. @TechieDolan wrote:

Food allergies are on the rise in the UK, and it affects the lives of a large number of adults and children.

According to the Food Standards Agency, it is estimated 1-2 per cent of adults and 5-8 per cent of children in the UK have a food allergy. This equates to around two million people living in the UK with a food allergy. This figure does not include those with food intolerances.

The charity Allergy UK, advocate that children with allergies are taught about what they can and can’t eat at the earliest opportunity. They advise: “Parents can be vigilant for the signs of allergy, but the child is always best placed to keep you aware of how allergic conditions are changing.

“By encouraging children to speak up and by listening and interpreting what they say, parents and other carers can act quickly and seek help. If a child is too young to speak up independently, the use of stickers or ID jewellery can be useful.”

They suggest that for very young children with allergies, there is no replacement for clearly “written instructions from you about your child’s condition.”

Peter Rabbit stars Margot Robbie and James Corden and was released in the US on 3 February. It will be on in cinemas in the UK on 16 March.


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