I'm A Celebrity slammed by the RSPCA after animal trials leaves charity with 'serious concerns'

ANIMAL charity the RSPCA have spoken out about the "serious concerns" they have over the use of live creatures in the new series.

During last night's episode, campmates Shane Richie and Jordan North took part in The Viper Vault, which saw them lowered into a coffin-like structure with 30 snakes.

Meanwhile, the celebrities participated in the first Bushtucker Trial titled Gates To Hell on the show's launch night.

The trial saw them showered with cockroaches, mealworms and crickets as they tried to pass stars from one stall to the next.

In light of the new series, the RSPCA released a statement and said: "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."

The animal welfare charity claimed that I'm A Celeb bosses had been in contact with them prior to the series airing.

However, the RSPCA said they were disappointed to learn they would still be using animals despite their concerns.

They said: "Throughout the years, we've been raising our concerns with the production company about how animals were being treated on the Australia-based programme, but we never received a response from the show.

"We were very pleased when the show's production company got in touch with us in the planning stages of this year's series, set here in the UK. 

"We spoke to them about changing the way they use animals along with the change of continent – perhaps introducing welfare-friendly alternatives to animal use in the trials," they added.

"However, we were really disappointed to be told that they would continue to be using animals in this way during this series. We know that many of you, the animal loving public, agree with us and really dislike the use of animals in this way."

The RSPCA explained they would continue to put pressure on ITV and I'm A Celeb producers to "rethink" the way animals are used on the series.

They said: "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 RSPCA encouraged viewers who take issue with the way animals are used on the show to contact Ofcom or ITV directly. 

In light of their statement, a spokesperson for I'm A Celebrity told the Daily Star: "I'm A Celebrity complies with animal welfare law concerning the use of animals and we are proud of our exemplary production practices."

In August, it was reported that the show could be forced to ditch their terrifying Bushtucker Trials with live animals due to the UK's strict laws.

The reality series is filming at Gwrych Castle in Wales instead of an Australian jungle this year due to restrictions surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It was previously reported that the change of location could spell trouble the stomach-churning challenges that viewers have come to expect from the show, with animal welfare laws discouraging the use of creatures for TV productions.

For the past 20 series, I'm A Celeb has followed Australian's national guidelines when planning their trials around everything from critters to crocodiles – but now they have to play by the UK rules.

The Animal Welfare Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act will both need to be strictly adhered to, with both banning any animals being put through undue suffering.

In addition, production companies are strongly advised to go to the RSPCA's specialist performing animals team if they ever want to use creatures in filming.

The animals rights charity offer advice and support for any TV shows or films that hope to use animals – and their website states that they will "always" encourage "alternative methods" being found.

The use of animals is a huge focal point in the reality show, with contestants often forced to test their endurance of traditionally "scary" animals as they fight to win food for camp.

From being buried alive in a coffin full of creatures, having to navigate tunnels and other set-ups full of bugs, snakes, or rats, and even holding animals in their mouths or on their face – when they're not being made to eat them.

Previously, I'm A Celeb was slammed by PETA, who have begged the ITV show to "ditch cruel stunts with animals".

ITV bosses previously axed the use of live animals in eating trials after heavy campaigning from animal charities and wildlife experts including the BBC's Chris Packham.

In the 2015 series, Towie’s Ferne McCann ate a live water spider, prompting 1,500 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom.

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