AN ANIMAL welfare charity has once again called on I'm A Celeb to ditch live animals.

Last year, more than 11,800 animal lovers wrote to Ofcom about their concerns.

The RSPCA has written to hit TV show 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!’ urging them to stop using live animals in their 'Bushtucker Trials'.

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, said: "Sadly, we know the next few weeks will likely see many live animals on our TV screens put in situations that could compromise their welfare for a quick laugh.

"We've urged the production company behind 'I'm a Celebrity' to think again - and entertain the animal-loving UK public without resorting to anti-animal Bushtucker Trials.

"Last year in North Wales, we saw animals - including snakes, bearded dragons and toads - put in very concerning situations; while insects were routinely at risk of being crushed and killed.

"We are also concerned at the way the programme portrays animals." With people discussing how scared they are, and animals portrayed in such a negative light, this programme is a long way away from our vision of a world where all animals are respected and treated with kindness and compassion.

"Positively, over 11,800 of our supporters wrote to Ofcom to air their views - and we anticipate a similar groundswell of opinion this year too. We believe it is very possible to produce this programme without compromising the welfare of animals, so urge all those connected with 'I'm a Celebrity' to re-think and update this show for the modern UK."

The ITV reality show is back in North Wales, at Gwrych Castle, for a second time.

Mr Sherwood has written to Lifted Entertainment, who produce the show, urging them to commit to withdrawing the use of live animals from future series - and offering the RSPCA's support in creating a programme more in line with the values of the animal-loving UK public.

The use of live animals has been a constant feature of the show since it first aired in 2002. The new series starts on Sunday (November 21).

The treatment of vertebrate animals is governed by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in Wales.

RSPCA welfare experts say in 2020 they were troubled by "large numbers" of naturally solitary corn snakes confined together in boxes; bearded dragons, that require temperatures similar to their native Australia, exposed to conditions described by campers as "freezing cold"; and rats, corn snakes and toads stuck in barren boxes that campers had to blindly reach into.

The charity also claims invertebrate animals - not covered by the Animal Welfare Act - were also routinely at risk of being crushed during trials.

The RSPCA believe, in addition to causing distress to animals, the programme risks a negative portrayal of animals which may cause viewers to develop negative perceptions of certain species. There is also concern that those watching the programme may seek to mimic particular 'Bushtucker Trials'.

The programme will air at a time when legislation is going through parliament to fulfil a UK Government pledge to recognise animal sentience in UK law - and there are calls for the Welsh Government to do the same in Wales too.

ITV has re-confirmed its procedures regarding the safeguarding and handling of animals for its production in Wales.

A spokesperson said that I’m A Celebrity ensures that animal welfare law is complied with on its production and ITV implements rigorous production practices to ensure that animals are handled safely before, during and after the filming period.

Procedures in place on the series include:

  • ITV Studios uses a specialist licensed animal company that is based on site for the duration of the production. The company has extensive and detailed experience of all animals that are featured and working with animals in film and television. Members of the specialist animal team are present during the recording of every trial and challenge where animals are involved.
  • A specialist company holds all required licences including those under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations and the Performing Animals Act as required.
  • ITV work closely with the relevant national and local authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure that the production has appropriate procedures in place and complies with all animal welfare and conservation laws relating to the use of animals in TV and film production.
  • The production has comprehensive on-set measures in place to contain animals during filming, including controlled release zones and grate systems to contain insects used during filming and collect them afterwards.
  • Animals are transported and kept in enclosures on set which are temperature controlled to their individual needs and have been signed off by the relevant local authority following a site visit.
  • The Production sources insects that are commercially bred in the UK, and would normally be purchased by zoos and pet stores to feed birds and exotic animals.
  • ITV donate insects to local wildlife sanctuaries, trusts and zoos for their exotic animal and bird feed after filming.
  • ITV regularly review the measures in place and develop them in line with any requirements following engagement with the local authority and other regulatory authorities to ensure they are fit for purpose.

An ITV spokesman said: “The team at I’m A Celebrity have many years of experience in producing the show and have rigorous protocols in place to ensure that animals are handled safely before, during and after filming, in compliance with animal welfare law. Welfare and safety is always our primary priority.”

Last year the RSPCA also waded in on the argument about insects being used on the show.