Thousands of people have signed a petition against a show which would see a replica of Joseph Merrick’s body dissected in front of an audience.
Merrick, nicknamed “The Elephant Man”, was a Leicester man who took part in “freak shows” in the 1880s. Merrick suffered from abnormal growth of his skin and bones.
Campaigners want to see a “Dinner and Dissection” event pulled as they say it creates a modern-day freak show and shames people with disabilities.
The petition, which now has over 10,000 signatures, was started by Karen Diamond whose 2-year-old daughter Willow has pik3ca-related overgrowth syndrome.
She wrote: “The thought of my daughter growing up and knowing that people dined and drank while enjoying watching that in a circus tent breaks my heart.
“Disabilities should not be exploited for income. They should be welcomed in modern day society and awareness should be made in a positive and dignified manner. We are all for raising awareness but to do this in a circus tent while people eat and drink is utterly absolutely disgusting.”
Actor and presenter Adam Pearson has spoken out against the show, telling the BBC: “I think if Joseph Merrick knew that this event was happening, he’d be righteously angry and completely heartbroken.”
The event will be put on by Sam Piri, who previously appeared on Dragons’ Den. Tickets for the Victorian medicine themed event cost almost £100 and the website boasts “real dissections” of the head, brain, lungs, heart and GI tract.
Piri explained that all organs used during the show are from pigs. The organs are placed into silicone replica bodies to give people the “experience” that they are taking part in a human body dissection.
Piri has defended the event, saying: “I understand that people might find it distasteful and we’re not saying that that’s not a thing, but I don’t think that should be grounds for censoring a true story that happened in British history and teaching people about it from an academic perspective.”
People have also taken to Twitter to express their opinions on the event, with American Association of People with Disabilities President and CEO Maria Town calling the “dinner and dissection” a “heinous and deeply hurtful concept.”
Merrick’s skeleton has been preserved at the Royal London Hospital since his death in 1890.
His life has been depicted in several works, including a 1979 play and a 1980 film by Twin Peaks director David Lynch.
To sign the petition, visit change.org.