I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! has received a record number of complaints over the use of live animals in its Bushtucker Trials.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has received 17,000 complaints from viewers over animals being used in the challenges.
This year’s series of the show has seen reptiles, spiders, eels and a variety of other crittiers used for the trials.
The celebrities must compete in the challenges to win food for the camp or else they must subsist on a diet of rice and beans.
The show has used animals in its trials since its first series back in 2002 but many viewerrs are unhappy with it.
Celebrities have often had to eat animal parts during some of the trials with Katie Price and Kim Woodburn memorably chowing down on fish eyes, cockroaches and a kangaroo testicle in the 2009 series.
Last year’s show reportedly saw more than 13,000 complaints over the use of animals with the RSPCA saying they are ‘concerned’ with the way I’m A Celebrity ‘portrays’ animals.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: ‘Sadly, we are once again seeing many live animals on our TV screens put in situations that could compromise their welfare for a quick laugh.
‘We are also concerned at the way the programme portrays animals; it risks trivialising their lives for the sake of light ‘entertainment’.
‘With people discussing how scared they are, and animals portrayed in such a negative light, this programme is a long way from the RSPCA’s vision of a world where all animals are respected and treated with kindness and compassion.
‘And now that animal sentience – the ability of animals to have positive and negative experiences like pain, distress or pleasure – is recognised in UK law, portraying live animals to UK viewers in this way in I’m a Celebrity is out of sync with this progressive step back home.
‘We’ve previously urged the production company behind I’m a Celebrity to think again – and entertain the animal-loving UK public without resorting to anti-animal Bushtucker Trials; and now thousands of supporters have written to ITV Viewer Services to back us too.
He said: ‘It’s encouraging that a record 17,000 of our supporters have already written to ITV this year to air their views.
‘We believe it is very possible to produce this programme without compromising the welfare of animals, so urge all those connected with ‘I’m a Celebrity’ to re-think and update this show in line with public opinion.’
The RSPCA believes that – in addition to causing distress to animals – the programme risks a negative portrayal of animals which may cause viewers to develop negative perceptions of certain species.
In response to the complaints, an ITV spokesperson said: ‘We are always fully transparent about our protocols and we have a very strict environmental plan in place on the show.
‘As a production, we comply with all regional and national laws concerning the use of insects, animals and reptiles.
‘Welfare and safety is always the primary priority on any of our programmes, and at any Bushtucker trial that features animals, we have qualified and experienced animal handlers on site at all times.
‘We inform the RSPCA NSW of all of our activities on the show and they have an open invitation to attend the site at any time.
‘We cannot stress enough that we have rigorous protocols in place to ensure that animals are handled safely at all times, before, during and after any filming has taken place, in compliance with all regional and national laws.’