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ITV criticised by RSPCA over 'worrying' treatment of animals in 'I'm A Celebrity'

Amy Johnson
·3-min read
Ant and Dec have relocated from Down Under to Gwrych Castle. (ITV)
Ant and Dec have relocated from Down Under to Gwrych Castle. (ITV)

ITV has been criticised by the RSPCA over the treatment of animals on I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! trials, while the broadcaster insists it complies with welfare laws.

The show's Bushtucker trials frequently involve the use of live creatures including snakes, rats and cockroaches, as well as dead animals for eating trials.

In the second episode of the latest series set in Wales, DJ Jordan North and entertainer Shane Richie were placed underground in a 'Viper Vault' challenge that saw each of them put into a confined space with around 30 snakes.

Watch: Jordan North and Shane Richie take on Viper Vault trial

Meanwhile, the first task saw the 10 competing stars covered in mealworms and crickets.

The charity has expressed "worry" at the programme depicting "certain species" as "nasty or frightening" or as objects to be used for entertainment.

Read more: Jordan North screams through I’m A Celeb trial

The statement posted to the RSPCA website read: “Since 'I'm a Celebrity' was first aired, animals have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences. There have also been incidents where animals have been killed for no other purpose than entertainment.

"The show's messaging and the potential to prompt people to try and copy the 'bushtucker trials' at home for entertainment is also worrying and we feel that deliberately portraying certain species as nasty or frightening or as objects that can be used purely for entertainment rather than sentient, living creatures sends out totally the wrong message.”

Screengrab of I'm A Celebrity trial (ITV)
Screengrab of I'm A Celebrity trial (ITV)

The charity added production had been in touch about the 2020 series and that they had spoke about changing the way animals were used. However, they claim to have been "disappointed" when told animals would be continued to be involved in a similar way as in previous series.

“We'll continue to urge ITV and the production company to rethink the way they use animals in I'm A Celebrity and replace the challenges with animal-friendly alternatives. We'll be watching the programme and will flag up any concerns we have to the producers.

"Unfortunately, a number of the animals used in the challenges, such as cockroaches and crickets, are invertebrates and aren't covered by the Animal Welfare Act or the Performing Animals Act, which apply in Wales.

"This means they have little protection under the law. However, if we're alerted to concerns about other animals which are covered by these laws being caused suffering or distress during this programme, we'll look into this, and, where appropriate, investigate. Where we can act, we will,” the statement continued.

Vernon Kay, Beverley Callard, Sir Mo Farah CBE, Jessica Plummer, Shane Richie, Victoria Derbyshire, AJ Pritchard, Giovanna Fletcher, Hollie Arnold MBE and Jordan North in a promotional still for I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)
Vernon Kay, Beverley Callard, Sir Mo Farah CBE, Jessica Plummer, Shane Richie, Victoria Derbyshire, AJ Pritchard, Giovanna Fletcher, Hollie Arnold MBE and Jordan North in a promotional still for I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)

An ITV spokesperson said in response: “I'm A Celebrity complies with animal welfare law concerning the use of animals and we are proud of our exemplary production practices.

Read more: Ant and Dec share glimpse into I’m A Celebrity schedule

“We have a long working relationship with the RSPCA in New South Wales, Australia, and as such contacted their counterparts some months ago when we knew that the programme would be made in the UK, with a view to working collaboratively with them.”

I'm A Celebrity has frequently found itself on the receiving end of criticism for its use of animals, with naturalist Chris Packham making an annual plea to ITV to put and end to using animals in the show.

Back in 2019 he publicly pleaded with presenters Ant and Dec to intervene, urging Dec to "think how his daughter will perceive his actions".

Last year did see the programme permanently put an end to trials that involve eating any live critters.

Watch: Ant McPartlin mocks Hollie Arnold over MBE mentions