Chris Packham calls for 'I'm A Celebrity' to 'shape up or shut down' over animal trials (exclusive)

Programme Name: Autumnwatch 2021 - TX: n/a - Episode: Autumnwatch 2021 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Chris Packham - (C) BBC - Photographer: Pete Dadds
Autumnwatch presenter Chris Packham has laid into I'm a Celeb (BBC/Pete Dadds)

Chris Packham has called for I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! to "shape up or shut down" over the use of animals in trials.

The naturalist and TV presenter has often criticised the ITV contest's use of creatures in its bushtucker trials and ahead of the 2021 series he slammed what he called the "abhorrent disrespect for animals and disregard for their welfare" in the wake of COP26 highlighting a biodiversity crisis.

Packham told Yahoo UK: "Is this finally the year? The year when I’m A Celebrity finally joins the rest of the thinking caring world and addresses its abhorrent disrespect for animals and disregard for their welfare.

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"We are in a critical biodiversity crisis, we’ve just had the COP to highlight this and ensuring the immediate protection of ALL life is imperative."

Wildlife expert Chris Packham and more than 100 children deliver a Wild Card campaign petition  signed by 100,000, to Buckingham Palace, London, calling on the royal family to re-wild their estates. Picture date: Saturday October 9, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chris Packham is an avid campaigner for protecting nature. (Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)

The 60-year-old wildlife expert also questioned what had happened to some of the non UK native species used in last year's series which took place in Wales rather than Australia for the first time, as I'm A Celebrity prepares to return to Gwrych Castle for a second year.

He said: "Last year non native species were allegedly allowed to escape from their set, threatening our native wildlife. This cannot happen again."

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Packham continued: "The programme has ample opportunities to be entertaining without resorting to abusing animals or their reputations - it’s the time when we all need to change and this series is no exception.

"It’s time for it to shape up - or shut down."

'I'm A Celebrity' will return to Wales for the second year. (ITV)
'I'm A Celebrity' will return to Wales for the second year. (ITV)

ITV has been contacted for comment about the conservationist's views.

Trials on the show include showering celebrities with insects, letting rodents and snakes into confined spaces with them, and eating a range of stomach-churning dishes including fish eyes, kangaroo testicles and sheep brains.

Trailers for the new series, due to start next week, have promised more gruesome trials than ever before although they haven't detailed what will be involved.

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The programme uses a range of creatures in trials. (ITV)

Last year, Packham addressed the many times he had called on the show to change their format with the use of creatures.

He told The Express: "I’m not being a killjoy here, I’m not against the programme, just if the great minds of ITV entertainment can't come up with the means of making a celebrity uncomfortable without pouring cockroaches over them, they ought to go back to the drawing board."

I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! is due to start on Sunday, 21 November at 9pm on ITV.

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