As thousands of families across the nation countdown the days to the start of the new series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! , wildlife presenter Chris Packham has criticised the show, calling it “barbaric”.
Packham, who fronts Springwatch and Autumnwatch, has written an open letter directly to Ant and Dec, the presenters of the celebrity jungle survival show.
“It spoils the show because it’s simply out of date, some would say barbaric,” argues Packham in the Radio Times.
The fourteenth series of the show will feature a new line-up of celebrities, including Gemma Collins from The Only Way Is Essex, rapper Tinchy Stryder and former BBC news reader Michael Buerk . The celebrities will each face spiders, snakes and cockroaches in the 'Bushtucker Trials'.
“Ant and Dec are hugely professional, they are hugely successful broadcasters. They command a huge amount of respect within the media and as a consequence of that I think they have to ask themselves some serious questions about what their actions are helping to promote,” the animal conservationist explained on BBC Radio 5 Live.
The ITV show has run since 2002 and has been reprimanded for mistreatment of animals in 2010 the broadcaster was fined £2,000 by the Australian RSPCA when a rat was killed and eaten on the show.
“I don’t mind reality TV, I don’t dislike Ant and Dec, but I totally abhor the idiotic, out-dated and puerile abuse of animals that takes place on this show”, wrote Packham, in a previous public complaint in 2012.
He continued: “It undermines everything we try to do and it betrays an ignorant and wholesale disrespect for life. For me it is no more than mediaeval style exploitation and a shameful indictment of how low TV will stoop to ‘entertain’.”
In a formal statement, ITV said: “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. ITV takes animal welfare very seriously and expert handlers are on hand at all times.
However, Packham believes that the animals are harmed because they are fragile and easily stressed by the situations they are put in. He also points out that animals are killed in the ‘Bushtucker Trials’, in which the contestants eat live insects. Packham argues that just because the animals killed in the show are “ugly and unpopular” that it is not an excuse for them to be harmed.
Members of the public took to Twitter to shared their mixed feelings on the issue:
I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! begins on Sunday 30 November 2014 and is accompanied by I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here Now! On ITV2.
By Sanya Bugress