Eddie Edwardson, a latter day ‘Elephant Man’ whose deformities are so extreme he lives in a permanent state of self-isolation, today insisted that if online trolls don’t stop insulting the way he looks he’ll ‘pack his trunk and say goodbye to the UK’.
Eddie, whose condition means he cannot use his mouth to form words, spoke through his interpreter and carer, Jack Stevens, a former zoo keeper from Staffordshire.
Stevens, who describes Eddie as ‘a pioneer of social justice’, has been looking after Edwardson since he was a child and now acts as a full time carer.
Eddie lives in a purpose-made building in the garden of Jack Stevens who says the ‘latter day Joseph Merrick’ is so self conscious he has become a hermit and lives in permanent exile from the rest of society.
“Eddie’s only link with the outside world is the internet,” Stevens said during a recent Panorama special highlighting Edwardson’s plight. “He’s very active on social media, but people can be so cruel.”
Eddie, whose hands are so deformed he can’t use a normal computer, engages with the online community through Jack. “Eddie tells me what he wants to say and I type it out for him.”
The BBC Panorama crew visited Jack and Eddie in their home in the process of shooting the special programme which airs this week.
Producer Dominic Neltz said, “Eddie started suffering an online barage of insults from internet trolls and anonymous bullies when it became evident that Eddie is, in fact, an elephant.”
“It seems Jack Stevens adopted a baby Indian elephant illegally some time in the 90s and reared ‘Eddie’ in an enclosure in his back garden. He’s since declared that Eddie is a deformed human and has spent the last five years running a variety of online social media accounts in Eddie’s name.”
Stevens refutes accusations that Eddie is, in fact, an elephant, and said during the Panorama special,
“Eddie has told me to tell you and everyone else that he is a person and, as a person, deserves human dignity just like everyone else. Many people wish to deny Eddie his rights and have labelled him an animal without even getting to know the real Eddie. It’s disgusting.”
Frank Gibbons, who lives three doors down from Jack Stevens, told the Panorama programme, “everyone knows about Mad Jack and his bloody elephant. He quite often drags the poor thing to Tescos with a bag over its head. He yells at anyone who stares, calling them monsters and so on.”
Dominic Neltz explained why his team chose to investigate Eddie’s story.
“I think it’s a modern day conundrum. Jack insists Eddie is a person. Eddie can’t speak for himself, but Jack claims he speaks for Eddie, so in that respect, Eddie also claims he’s a person. Who are we to deny Eddie his claim?”
“After all, in this age of gender identity where Bruce Jenner can claim to be a woman and Elen DeGeneres can walk around acting like a man, why can’t an elephant be a human?”
Social commentator, Thomas Garrish, who has written a number of books on gender neutrality, including ‘The Identity Myth’, said,
“the reason an elephant can’t claim to be a human is entirely self evident and, by the way, precisely why a man can’t claim to be a woman.”
“We can humour Jack Stevens, just like we can humour Caitlyn Jenner. But we can’t say, ethically, that a thing is not the thing it is just because one person really really wants it not to be.”
“At the end of the day, Caitlyn is just Bruce Jenner with his John Thomas chopped off and a pair of fake tits glued to his chest, but because we like Bruce and don’t want to hurt his feelings we’ll all go along with it, call him Caitlyn and pretend it’s perfectly normal.”
“But, scientifically and ethically, Caitlyn is still a man. No amount of surgery can alter that fact.”
“In the same way, we can pretend, for Jack Stevens’ sake, that Eddie is a person, but we can’t say, yes, Eddie is actually a human being, not if we don’t want to enter a new collective age of social insanity at least.”
Jack Stevens disagrees, saying, “Eddie was born an elephant, yes. And people might look at him on the outside and think he’s an elephant, but inside he’ll never be anything other than a hideously deformed human.”
“I’ll never stop fighting for Eddie’s right to be identified as a human being. And one day, in a more enlightened era, I look forward to seeing him finally step out into the sunshine, hold his enormous head up high and say, ‘I, Eddie Edwardson’, am finally free to be me. And the me that I am, is a man!”