Chris Packham’s call to Ant and Dec for an end to the abuse suffered by animals during the “out of date” and “barbaric” I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here games has received support from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“Unlike the celebrity contestants who volunteer to be on the show, animals are not there by choice and deserve more than to be used in stressful and cruel situations in a desperate attempt to boost ratings,” a PETA spokesperson told The Independent.
“Packham is absolutely right to assert that – like the PETA motto says – animals are not ours to use for entertainment. All animals – not just the ones that are considered to be cute and cuddly – want to live free from harm.
“I'm A Celebrity's lack of kindness is matched only by the show's total dearth of creativity, evidenced by the fact that it has repeated the same irresponsible and inhumane tasks for more than a decade.”
The wildlife presenter penned an open response to the TV personalities ahead of the launch of the new ITV series on Sunday.
He said he felt the show taught younger viewers that killing animals for “exploitative 'entertainment' is acceptable” and called it “a shame that I imagine neither of you will want to take to your graves”.
“The problem is that animals such as snakes, spiders, crocodiles, rats and many invertebrates are already misunderstood and thus unfortunately vilified, despite the incredibly important roles they play in the world's ecosystems and our lives,” he wrote for the Radio Times.
Animals in decline
Animals in decline
1/8 Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina)
Where: Orkney Islands. What: Between 2001-2006, numbers in Orkney declined by 40 per cent. Why: epidemics of the phocine distemper virus are thought to have caused major declines, but the killing of seals in the Moray Firth to protect salmon farms may have an impact.
2/8 African lion (Panthera leo)
Where: Ghana. What: In Ghana’s Mole National Park, lion numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent in 40 years. Why: local conflicts are thought to have contributed to the slaughter of lions and are a worrying example of the status of the animal in Western and Central Africa.
3/8 Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Where: Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica. What: Numbers are down in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It declined by 95 per cent between 1989-2002 in Costa Rica. Why: mainly due to them being caught as bycatch, but they’ve also been affected by local developments.
4/8 Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
Where: South Atlantic. What: A rapid decline. One population, from Bird Island, South Georgia, declined by 50 per cent between 1972-2010, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Why: being caught in various commercial longline fisheries.
5/8 Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica)
Where: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. What: fall in populations has been dramatic. In the early 1990s numbers were over a million, but are now estimated to be around 50,000. Why: the break up of the former USSR led to uncontrolled hunting. Increased rural poverty means the species is hunted for its meat
6/8 Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
Where: found worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate seas. Why: at risk from overfishing and as a target in recreational fishing. A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean
7/8 Argali Sheep (Ovis mammon)
Where: Central and Southern Asian mountains,usually at 3,000-5,000 metres altitude. Why: domesticated herds of sheep competing for grazing grounds. Over-hunting and poaching.
8/8 Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Where: the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to South Africa and to the Tuamoto Islands (Polynesia), north to the Ryukyu Islands (south-west Japan), and south to New Caledonia. Why: Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and trading of the species
“By orchestrating a fear of them among your contestants, I'm afraid you're reinforcing and exaggerating a terrible ignorance and intolerance of these remarkable animals.”
Packham went on to criticise the use of apparent “animal consultants” on the show to give advice about the welfare of the animals used.
He wrote that he could “guarantee” that despite the experts’ efforts to keep them safe, “some animals are harmed during production” because they are “fragile” creatures and are “easily stressed”.
“Or simply killed, as they are in your bushtucker trials,” he added.
“The show has been running for years now. Surely it's time for it to mature, for you to accept that, as pillars of the British broadcasting community, you should put an end to this inhumane, embarrassing and destructive aspect of an otherwise great show.”
ITV have since issued a response to the article in the Radio Times.
“Ant and Dec are the presenters of the show, and as such are not involved with the formatting of the trials, which are devised by the show's producers,” it reads.
“ITV takes animal welfare very seriously and expert handlers are on hand at all times.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time the show has come under fire for apparent animal welfare abuses.
In 2010, Stuart Manning and Gino D'Acampo were charged with animal cruelty after they killed and ate a rat live on TV.
The New South Wales branch of the RSPCA, where I’m A Celebrity… is filmed, criticised the programme for allowing the killing of an animal for entertainment and branded the act “unacceptable”.
However, the charges were later dropped after ITV admitted responsibility for the killing and accepted a £1,660 fine.Reuse content