Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories have enthralled generations of children with their tales of warm camaraderie and gentle mischief.

But a new film adaptation of the much-loved classic has prompted a furious backlash and calls for it to be withdrawn from cinemas because the protagonist and his furry friends deliberately pelt an allergic man with blackberries.

Allergy UK said the film, due to be released in the UK next month, “mocks” allergy sufferers and trivialises a life-threatening condition.

Carla Jones, the charity’s CEO, said: “Anaphylaxis can and does kill. To include a scene in a children’s film that includes a serious allergic reaction and not to do it responsibly is unacceptable, as is bullying.

“Mocking allergic disease shows a complete lack of understanding of the seriousness of food allergy and trivialises the challenges faced by those who live with this condition, particularly parents who live in fear of their child suffering a life-threatening reaction.”

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She said they expected the controversial scene to generate a “significant response”, adding: “We will be communicating with the production company about the film’s withdrawal.”

In Peter Rabbit, starring James Corden, the rabbits’ arch nemesis Mr McGregor dies and his nephew Tom takes charge of the vegetable patch with a renewed vigour and disdain for “vermin”. In one scene, the rabbits, who have learned that he is allergic to blackberries, pelt him with the fruit, firing one into his mouth. Tom reportedly collapses to the ground, choking and turning red before stabbing himself in the leg with an EpiPen.

The rabbits are also said to make light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggest they are “made up for attention”.

The scenes prompted the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit on social media.

Several groups representing allergy sufferers called for a boycott of the film, warning that it is “grossly offensive” and makes light of a potentially fatal condition.

Parents of children with food allergies also expressed disgust at the scene and the message it sends to young viewers.

A petition calling on Sony Pictures to apologise has attracted more than 6000 signatures after the Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity group (Globalaai) said the film “mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to … those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis”.

The Kids with Food Allergies Foundation, an American group, posted a Facebook warning to parents about the “allergy jokes”.

It said: “Making light of this condition … 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.”

Others railed against the backlash, chastising the “snowflake generation” who they claimed had too much time on their hands.

One Twitter user said: “Let’s ban movies completely just in case. If you want to get indignant about something pick a war or social injustice etc but please leave the poor rabbit alone.” —Telegraph Group Ltd

Copyright © 2018 The New Zealand Herald. All rights reserved.

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