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EXC: I’m A Celeb hit with 11,000 complaints over live animals

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I’m a Celebrity bosses are under pressure to stop using live animals in trials after nearly 11,000 viewers lodged complaints, MailOnline can reveal.

Animal lovers have inundated the RSPCA with a record number of protests against celebrities ‘cruelly’ using live creatures for entertainment during the programme’s popular trials, which have included insects being devoured in the past.

ITV bosses have found themselves on the end of intense criticism after the RSPCA revealed there had been a huge clamour for the producers to curb the use of live creatures ‘as a commodity for entertainment.’

The RSPCA says that nearly 11,000 complaints have been made and are being passed to Ofcom, but the TV regulators say they have received, thus far, 922 direct complaints. 

Oh no! I'm a Celebrity bosses are under pressure to stop using live animals in trials after nearly 11,000 viewers lodged complaints, MailOnline can reveal

Oh no! I’m a Celebrity bosses are under pressure to stop using live animals in trials after nearly 11,000 viewers lodged complaints, MailOnline can reveal

Ofcom, the Government’s TV regulatory body, is assessing the complaints and has powers to ban animals being used as well as fine TV companies.

A senior programme source told MailOnline animal welfare was a key part of planning, saying: ‘The operator that we use for the programme has extensive experience in the care of animals for the film and television industry…

‘They have a Five Star Animal Welfare Licence for this type of work. They also hold an Animal Performers Licence which is applicable in Wales…

‘Our experienced animal handlers look after the animals during filming and many of them belong to the animal handlers. They are not wild and are bred as pets and therefore domesticated and used to human interaction.

‘Insects like crickets, cockroaches and morio worms are purposely bred in the UK, in normal circumstances for animal feed…

‘After filming, these are donated to local wildlife centres and sanctuaries after filming. We have also put measures in place to look after our invertebrates which includes the installation of grates to allow easy collection.’

Oh dear... Animal lovers have inundated the RSPCA with a record number of protests against celebrities 'cruelly' using live creatures for entertainment during the programme's popular trials, which have included insects being devoured in the past

Oh dear… Animal lovers have inundated the RSPCA with a record number of protests against celebrities ‘cruelly’ using live creatures for entertainment during the programme’s popular trials, which have included insects being devoured in the past

An ITV spokesman added: ‘I’m A Celebrity complies with animal welfare law concerning the use of animals.’

The show, which concludes on Friday night with either Giovanna Fletcher to be crowned Queen of the Castle of one of the remaining male celebs including Sir Mo Farah being crowned the King, is being filmed in Wales for the first time.

An RSPCA source said it received a trickle of complaints in the past when the show was transmitted from Australia, but these complaints had developed into a ‘barrage of anger’ now that the show has been broadcast from Britain.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood told MailOnline: ‘The RSPCA remains very concerned about the welfare of animals featured on this year’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’, and we’ve seen huge concern from our supporters and so many people passionate about animals.

‘Since our new campaign launched, we’ve seen more than 10,697 supporters write to Ofcom expressing concern about the show – and we’re expecting even more to follow in the coming days.

‘Our animal science experts have been monitoring the show – and have witnessed invertebrates being crushed, animals mishandled in small, enclosed spaces, and snakes locked in vaults with contestants – likely to be causing them fear and distress.

‘People are increasingly aware of animal sentience – and the feelings of happiness and distress animals can experience.

‘While many of the invertebrate animals featured in the show are not protected by law, we’re really worried that using animals in this way sends a troubling message that their lives can be easily disregarded for quick entertainment.

Agh! Ofcom, the Government's TV regulatory body, is investigating the complaints and has powers to ban animals being used as well as fine TV companies

Agh! Ofcom, the Government’s TV regulatory body, is investigating the complaints and has powers to ban animals being used as well as fine TV companies

‘We hope ITV will listen to animal lovers across the UK – by stopping the use of live creatures on the show.’ 

Celebrities have been showered with cockroaches, mealworms and crickets and Radio 1 DJ Jordan North and former EastEnders star Shane Richie have been covered in dozens of snakes during the games in which celebs are rewarded with food.

Although the consumption of live insects was stopped last year, viewers have been upset at critters being thrown onto contestants as well as rats being used in scenes.

North Wales Police is also said to be investigating the show over its use cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms, after complaints the species could threaten wildlife in the area around Gwrych Castle, near Abergele.

Ew: Although the consumption of live insects was stopped last year, viewers have been upset at critters being thrown onto contestants as well as rats being used in scenes

Ew: Although the consumption of live insects was stopped last year, viewers have been upset at critters being thrown onto contestants as well as rats being used in scenes

But ITV says the insects used on I’m A Celebrity are non-invasive species and are only ever released in a contained area and collected immediately after filming.

Vets have also slammed ‘I’m a Celebrity’ over the use of animals on the hit series.

British Vetinary Association Vice President, Daniella Dos Santos said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ production team did not take the opportunity of relocation to the UK to develop a fresh approach to the contestant trials without the use of animals.

‘(This is) despite the high volume of Ofcom complaints and this being an issue that BVA and other animal welfare organisations have voiced serious concerns about in the past.

Troubles: Vets have also slammed 'I'm a Celebrity' over the use of animals on the hit series

Troubles: Vets have also slammed ‘I’m a Celebrity’ over the use of animals on the hit series

‘The way that the show currently uses snakes, rats and other animals in trials is both cruel and stressful for them, and these scenarios are not meeting all of their animal welfare needs.

‘The UK has some of the highest standards of animal health and welfare in the world and in its current form, we feel the show compromises our reputation as a nation of animal lovers.’

ITV has been contacted for comment.

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