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Why I Choose to Boycott 'Peter Rabbit' as a Food Allergy Mom

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This weekend I saw a warning from Kids With Food Allergies, an organization I follow, to be aware of a very disturbing scene in “Peter Rabbit” that may upset kids with food allergies. They suggested we think about it and discuss it with our children before going to see the movie.

I for one was grateful for this warning. We had planned on taking our 7-year-old son to this movie in the near future. He is a wonderful little boy who happens to have a life-threatening food allergy to all nuts. He loves his pet bunny (who is ironically named Peanut), Easter and going to the movies, so this one was at the top of our go to movie list.

After reading the warning, I saw many parents of kids with food allergies discussing it on social media, and then a boycott arose. Soon, the subject was all over print media, then on news programs such as Good Morning America. I discussed the issue with my husband and we both decided it would be a good idea to join the boycott. We told our son about it, and how the movie contained a very scary and upsetting scene in which one of the characters was bullied and goes into anaphylaxis after blackberries are thrown at him. I told him that it is not the kind of movie we should go to because it may upset him, and because it encourages bullies and misinformation.

My son is young and has not yet experienced food allergy bullying, though I have while advocating for him. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) about one third of kids with food allergies have been bullied. I pray my son does not experience it, but know that the odds are he may. If the horrible comments I’ve been reading about people with food allergies online tell me anything, it tells me that many of these bullies grow up to be adults who continue to harass those with food allergies or other disabilities. These “adults” are influencing their children and through their actions may be raising future bullies.

We have to watch what we do and say in front of our children. They look up to us and model some of our behavior.

We have to be careful what we choose to put out into the world, through art, media or our own personal lives. We have to be careful what we let our children watch, and we have to be there to help educate them on what is right, what is wrong, and what is unnecessary.

The food allergy bullying scene in the movie “Peter Rabbit” is unnecessary, and it sends a very dangerous message to the young and impressionable. Many food allergies are life-threatening and claim many lives, including that of Karanbir Cheema, who died after a classmate threw a piece of cheese into his mouth, despite knowing of his allergy. This tragedy is eerily similar to the scene in “Peter Rabbit” in which they are throwing blackberries at Mr. McGregor. So when people tell us the boycott is ridiculous or for “snowflakes,” I say remember Karanbir, and those like him who have been killed or emotionally scarred by food allergy bullying. I say learn about empathy, and how to practice it. I say raise kinder children by being kind yourself.

Food allergies are very real and not a punchline. People in the media should work harder to educate themselves about food allergies, and not just use them as a lazy way of trying to get a laugh. A laugh at a disabled persons expense, for food allergies are now classified as a disability because they severely limit one or more major life activities such as eating, breathing or going to school.

People are dying from food allergies, and are going to emergency rooms every three minutes due to them according to FARE. Epipens can save lives, but only if administered quickly and effectively. Epinephrine is never a sure thing, so education, preparation, advocacy and support are extremely important. The support of those around us and the media would be very beneficial, and may even save lives.

I stand with all who choose to boycott “Peter Rabbit.” It is a small step in the right direction that Sony Pictures issued an apology, but it is not enough. They should remove the scene from their movie, and they should spend some time educating themselves about food allergies and spreading awareness to the millions who follow them/see their pictures. They should realize they did real harm to our food allergy community, and work hard to remedy the situation.

They have a magnified voice. They should use it to denounce bullying of all kinds. They should use it to support those with food allergies and other disabilities. They should continue to speak out before the next bully uses this movie as a means to hurt their next target.

For all the parents who may roll their eyes at this boycott, I hope you never have a child who is bullied for who they are, or whatever disability they may have. I hope that your children do not develop food allergies, though they may since one out of 13 children have them now.

Until your child suffers from a life-threatening allergic reaction, you will never understand how we feel. Until you see your child gasping for breath, not knowing if it will be their last, you will never understand. Until you send your young child to school surrounded by food that could kill them, you will never understand.

We are fighting battles to protect our children with food allergies on a daily basis. We are educating them and helping them to learn and grow, survive and thrive.

So you can become an advocate, a supporter/protector of children, or you can become another angry online bully who will never understand that this boycott is not just about a little bunny movie.

It is about loving our children, showing compassion, teaching our kids that no one deserves to be bullied, bringing awareness to life-threatening disabilities and so much more.

It is about making sure our little ones come hopping down the bunny trail safely each day to the ones they love.

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Originally published: February 14, 2018
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