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TV & Radio

ITV says sorry for jungle rat killing

ITV issued an apology today after a rat was allegedly killed and cooked during I'm A Celebrity... and said it will tighten its procedures.

Charges are being brought against series winner Gino D'Acampo and fellow contestant Stuart Manning after the rat was apparently butchered to add to a meal.

ITV said it was an "oversight" that the production team did not check whether the killing of a rat was lawful.

D'Acampo, 33, has been worried that contestants in the "exile camp" were struggling to cope on their rations and took matters into his hands.

Speaking in the show's Bush Telegraph video diary room, he said: "It's not done by choice but it's done because we need it. We need some kind of protein, we need some kind of flavour.

"I saw one of these rats running around. I got a knife, I got its throat, I picked it up."

The group, including 30-year-old Manning, ate the rat.

An ITV spokesman said: "The production was asked if a rat could be caught and eaten by the celebrities in exile camp to supplement the basic rations they had been provided with for their evening meal.

"Having sought health and safety advice, the go-ahead was given purely on this basis, when it became clear that there would not be any harmful effects of eating a properly prepared and cooked rat.

"The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offence, criminal or otherwise, in New South Wales and accepts that further inquiries should have been made - this was an oversight.

"ITV apologises for this error, and to the celebrities concerned, and will put in place procedures for next year's series to ensure that this cannot happen again."

Police have said there are no plans to prosecute the show's producers.

Chief Inspector David Oshannessy, from the New South Wales RSPCA, said it was not acceptable that an animal had been killed as part of a performance.

He said: "The allegation is that an animal was cruelly treated on the set. It was a rat that was killed. There is a code of conduct in New South Wales that dictates how animals can be used. The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable."

The charity sends staff whenever animals are used for filmed or live performances, he said, and so had been in contact with the programme's producers before the rat was killed.

A statement from the force about Manning and D'Acampo said: "Police from Murwillumbah yesterday issued field court attendance notices to two men aged 30 and 33 for the offence of animal cruelty. They are due to attend court at Murwillumbah local court on February 3, 2010."

Chef Antony Worrall Thompson, who appeared on I'm A Celebrity... in 2003, has said producers should take some responsibility for the incident.

He said an announcement was made warning him not to kill spiders while he was in the camp because they were a protected species.

"Maybe the producers are at fault for not warning them," he told Sky News.

"Personally, I would be looking further up the field."