Aardman trailer 'causes offence' to leprosy charity

The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!
Image caption Hugh Grant will voice Captain Pirate in Aardman's The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!

A film trailer by the makers of Wallace and Gromit has been criticised for "poking fun" at people with leprosy.

Essex-based Lepra Health in Action has expressed "disbelief" at the scene in Aardman's The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!

The charity said the film, due for release in March, sees an arm fall off a crew member on a "leper-boat".

A spokesman for Bristol-based Aardman said it took criticism like this seriously and was reviewing the matter.

Lepra's president Sir Christian Bonington said: "It might make you laugh but leprosy stigma not only hurts, it is still forcing people to live a life on the fringes of society.

"Not only is the dropping off of body parts a total misnomer we have to ask ourselves, as we watch it uncomfortably, is it acceptable for us to be laughing at the millions of people who are disabled by leprosy?"

'A leper-boat'

The scene shows the arrival of the Pirate Captain on board a captive ship, demanding gold.

"Afraid we don't have any gold old man, this is a leper-boat," explains a crew member. "See," he adds as his arm falls off.

Lepra Health in Action, originally formed in 1924, works with 3,000 schools across the UK to promote an understanding of the disease, work which the charity said has been undone by the trailer.

Chief executive Sarah Nancollas said: "The high profile use of this play on a misleading stereotype has the potential to set the leprosy agenda back years.

"We have already received complaints from people affected by leprosy in Brazil and India."

Leprosy is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, a very slow-growing bacteria similar to that which causes tuberculosis.

It is a painful condition which, although curable, can leave sufferers deformed and crippled if left untreated.

One person is diagnosed with leprosy every two minutes worldwide, according to the charity.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry has tweeted his support of the charity calling it a "cheap joke".

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