The film Peter Rabbit is going to be released in cinemas across the UK from tomorrow, Friday 16th March 2018. The film has received a mixed reception in the press and within the allergic community because of a scene in which the film’s antagonist Tom McGregor has to use an adrenaline auto-injector after being pelted with blackberries by the rabbit characters.
We have already expressed our own concerns about this scene. The filmmakers did release an apology but we are disappointed that Sony Pictures Entertainment have not responded to our requests, or the requests of other allergy patient support organisations from across the world, to engage in dialogue and further acknowledge the issues raised by the film.
As far as we are aware, the scene will remain in the UK version of the film. The film is classed as a PG. The British Board of Film Classification have highlighted the scene in their insight notes and confirmed with us that this rating means “parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children”.
We recognise that not everyone will have the same point of view about the film. Some families of children who are living with allergies have said to us they would prefer not to see it because of this scene, others have expressed a desire to watch it with their children to use it as a learning opportunity to talk about ‘allergy bullying’.
Parents, families and carers will know based on the personality and maturity of their children what will be the best decision for them and their family, so for this reason, we do not support a boycott.
Having a conversation with your child
Our helpline and information team suggest that whether you choose to watch the film or not, you can use the situation to have a conversation with children about why allergy bullying is dangerous, what they can do if they have an allergy and are being bullied, or, if they do not have an allergy, how they can help support their friends and other people at school or clubs they attend.
Children of all ages should know and understand that
- Bullying in any form is not acceptable
- Teasing someone about their allergy is bullying
- Threating to feed someone the thing they are allergic to is bullying
- Throwing the thing someone is allergic to at them or trying to feed it to them is bullying and could have serious consequences
If your child or children do not have an allergies
- Explain that having allergies is not a choice and they must be taken very seriously
- Let them know that what Peter Rabbit and his friends did in the film is not okay to do to people with allergies in real life
- Explain that the medicine Tom McGregor uses in the film is used by people who have allergies in real life when they get very unwell if they eat or touch something they are allergic to
- Help them understand that we don’t ever want to put someone in a situation where they have to use their emergency medicine
- Tell them that they have an important job to do to help their friends by making sure they are safe
If your child or children have allergies
- Help them understand that if they are being bullied they need to tell the school and you what is happening
- Encourage your child to help their friends understand about allergy management and what they can do to keep them safe
There is no quick and easy answer to the problem of bullying, but for children with severe allergies the potential consequences are deadly, so any incidents should be dealt with very seriously by all involved.
By law, all state schools must have a behaviour policy in place that includes measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. This policy is decided by the school. All teachers, pupils and parents must be told what it is, and allergy bullying should be treated seriously, like any other bullying.
We have advice on our website called ‘Letting go: teaching an allergic child responsibility’ which is designed to help you teach your children how to live with allergies. There is no one correct way, nor is there a set pattern; the words you use will change as your child grows, but the principles will remain the same. You can access this advice guide here.
Izzy and Ben’s story
We were involved in the development of an animation for the BBC which uses the stories of two children, Ben and Izzy, who describe how allergies and anaphylaxis influence their daily lives. The film is a resource that can be used both at home and at school. The film contains some scenes which younger viewers may find upsetting so teacher review prior to use in class is recommended. You can find the film online here.
CBeebies Radio Stories with Dr Ranj
In a recent CBeebies Radio Stories series on allergy, young Anaphylaxis Campaign members Jamie and his twin Luke helped Dr. Ranj explain what it’s like to live with peanut allergy and how to keep each other safe. You can access ‘The Nutty Detective’ online here.
AllergyWise for Schools
We have advice on our website for schools at www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/schools and a free online anaphylaxis training course called AllergyWise for Schools which is designed to ensure that staff in schools are fully aware of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, how to provide emergency treatment and how to manage and care for children at risk. Visit www.allergywise.org.uk to register.
If you have any concerns or questions, please contact our national helpline for information and advice via email [email protected] or call 01252 542 029.