In October 1995, the 3ft-10in-tall Manuel Wackenheim petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to take action against France for banning the pastime of dwarf-throwing.
The State Council, France's highest court, had ruled that dwarf-throwing was degrading to human dignity, but Wackenheim maintained that the ruling prevented him from earning a living.
Wackenheim's lawyer was reported as saying, 'Banning him from his work is a restriction of liberty.'
He said that his client, who weighs 97lb (44 kg), had never been injured by being thrown.
In dwarf-throwing, the human projectile wears a crash helmet and padded clothes with handles on the back for ease of throwing.
The flights are usually about 6ft long and end on an inflatable mattress. 'This spectacle is my life,' Wackenheim wrote to the Court. 'I want to be allowed to do what I want.'
The case was argued for seven years before a final decision was reached by the UN Human Rights Committee in September 2002, which ruled that: 'The ban on dwarf-tossing was not abusive but necessary in order to protect public order, including considerations of human dignity.' The committee also ruled that the ban 'did not amount to prohibited discrimination'.
Even before the matter reached the courts, however, the ethics of dwarf-throwing had exercised the minds of moral philosophers.
In 1993, Robert W. McGee published a paper in the American Journal of Jurisprudence entitled 'If Dwarf-tossing is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Toss Dwarfs: is Dwarf-tossing a Victimless Crime?'
This paper also formed the basis of a module in a Harvard University philosophy course. McGee's conclusion was unequivocal: there are no valid arguments to justify outlawing or restricting the practice of dwarf-tossing.
The last court dwarf in Europe was Coppernin, dwarf of the Princess of Wales (Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha), who was the mother of George III of England.
Only two dwarfs are known to have lived to the age of 100.
On 29 November 1995, a spokesman for the actors' union Equity explained the problems caused by 14 Christmas productions of Snow White: 'I think it's clear there are relatively few people who are physically suitable for this work,' he said. 'We have only 37 persons of restricted growth on our register.'