• The studio has issued an apology. (Sony Pictures)
The film depicts animals targeting a man with a blackberry allergy with, well, blackberries. Parents are #hoppingmad.
Lucy Rennick

13 Feb 2018 - 1:40 PM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2018 - 2:13 PM

What appears to be an innocuous, heartfelt movie is causing quite a stir among parents of kids with food allergies, who are reacting to a scene depicting a pack of animated animals throwing blackberries at a human with an allergy to the fruit. The pelting leads to Mr McGregor using his EpiPen to thwart an anaphylactic attack.

While young viewers may delight in the apparent slapstick comedy of the scene, parents are calling it "food allergy bullying" and are encouraging people to boycott the film. In an open letter to the producers of the film, Kids With Food Allergies (a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) argues “the segment makes light of the seriousness of food allergies and suggests that food allergies are 'made up for attention'", and goes on to criticise the rabbits in the movie for trying to "kill or harm McGregor” this way. The letter goes further to suggest that, unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Sony Pictures has used allergies as a “punchline” in children's movies – citing past examples such as The Smurfs and Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.

Kids With Allergies aren’t the only ones who are unhappy with the rambunctious rabbit’s mischief, according to Twitter.

The film was shot largely in Sydney and features Australians (such as actress Rose Byrne in a live-action role as a character called Bea while Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and singer Sia provide voices for animated characters such as Flopsy, Mopsy and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle).

However, the movie won’t be released here until March 22 – so Australian audiences will have to wait until then to make up their own minds. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy reports that food allergies occur in around 1 in 20 children in Australia, and are mostly triggered by eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat – not blackberries.

A petition created by Australian group Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity calling on Sony Pictures to apologise for the scene has received over 11,000 signatures and a response from the studio. In a statement, Sony said: "We sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”

#Boycottpeterrabbit is currently trending on Twitter.

Is it a reaction to food-allergy bullying or outrage culture in overdrive? (It's both, if you click on the tweets.) Regardless, we’re not sure a rabbit “making it rain” with lettuce leaves is exactly what British author Beatrix Potter imagined when she self-published her first Peter Rabbit book in 1901. Who knew an animated rabbit could cause such a hubbub?

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