MORE than 12,000 people have contacted Ofcom complaining about the use of live animals in this year's series of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!

The RSPCA says it is "overwhelmed" by the level of support for its campaign - emphasising the concerns which exist about the use and portrayal of animals in the ITV reality show.

The numbers backing the RSPCA's campaign this year has surpassed the 11,800 who took action during the last series when the programme was filmed at Gwrych Castle, near Abergele, for the first time.

RSPCA welfare experts have been monitoring this year's show.

The charity says animals like rats, lizards and snakes are likely to have been subject to stress while being surrounded by screaming, panicked celebrities in small, confined spaces as part of trials.

Different species of animal - such as snakes and rats - have been place in close proximity during trials, potentially causing significant stress to both species. Animals have also been handled "inappropriately" by contestants.

Trials often take place outside and with temperatures having dropped over recent weeks, the RSPCA is concerned about the environment being unsuitable for animals such as lizards and snakes that cannot produce their own body heat. They say it is unclear whether suitable sources of heat and light are being used.

Invertebrate animals - not covered by the Animal Welfare Act - are also routinely at risk of being crushed during trials.

Dr Ros Clubb, from the RSPCA's wildlife department, said: "We're overwhelmed by the response from the public to our campaign against the use of live animals in the I'm a Celeb show.

"More than 12,000 have already written to Ofcom to express concern - with the reaction from the public even stronger than last year, when the programme was filmed in North Wales for the first time.Recent weeks have once again seen many live animals put in situations that would compromise their welfare for nothing more than a quick laugh - and once again we've been really worried about what we have seen.

"Naturally solitary species have been grouped together in confined spaces, different species have been mixed in stressful situations, animals have been put into confined spaces alongside panicked celebrities and thousands of insects and other invertebrates have been poured on top of campers and risk being crushed.

"The way insects and other animals are used also trivialises the lives of these animals - at a time when debates around animal sentience are more prominent in society than ever before.”

Previously, the RSPCA wrote to the production company behind the show urging them to stop using live animals, and instead entertain the animal-loving UK public without resorting to anti-animal Bushtucker Trials.

The RSPCA is hoping that those behind future editions of the series will "update, re-think and modernise" the programme to end compromising situations for the welfare of animals.

An ITV spokesman said in November: “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.”

Supporters can email Ofcom about their concerns via the RSPCA website. Click here.