Ahead of the show airing, he told Yahoo News: "It’s like my partner said, I’m A Celebrity is a ghastly coliseum in the TV audience. We sit around whilst these people are essentially thrown to the lions or bits of the lion are thrown to them. It is just so embarrassing. We are meant to be a nation of animal lovers. What a degrading thing to put on our screens at prime time."
Now as promised, the animal lover has written to Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly to address the treatment of animals on the show as he shared his letter on Twitter.
Hello , I’ve written another letter to @antanddec about the ongoing appalling abuse of animals on @ITV programme @imacelebrity . I’ve tried to be polite but my patience has run thin . If you agree with what it says please RT . #ImACeleb pic.twitter.com/TBRCsL6Ucq
— Chris Packham (@ChrisGPackham) November 27, 2023
Last year, the RSPCA received a record 17,000 complaints about the jungle show’s treatment of animals - higher than any number of complaints from previous years since its inception in 2002. While Packham doesn't watch the show every night, he said he does tune in to "monitor" how the animals are being treated.
In our exclusive chat, Packham said: "Do we still live in a time where we treat animals as tools for entertainment? That is what it is. It's no better than a circus. It causes greater division because the animals that they choose in the main are animals which are stereotypical of those things which we've been taught to dislike when we know that we're not in that position.
"We have to understand that everything plays a role in the world's ecosystems and that's it fundamentally, why are we still allowing them to use these animals as entertainment? it's grotesque, it's outdated."
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Springwatch star Packham urged I’m A Celebrity bosses to rethink its format and said: "They have so many other ways of entertaining us."
When it comes to the Bushtucker trials, the TV presenter said they should refocus their efforts on "belittling" and "embarrassing" the celebrities without animals.
Celebrity Cyclone remains one of the most popular BushTucker trials where the celebrities battle against gushing water, strong winds and giant plastic balls.
He added: "So they're able to stretch their imagination to find other things to do, which will tax them, embarrass them and belittle them. Why do we have to use animals to do the same?"
ITV banned eating live insects in the most grisly Bushtucker trial in 2019. The stars would still be covered in bugs during trials but any insects being eaten would already be dead.
Packham praised ITV for the change but he called for TV bosses to end animals and insects being eaten on the show completely.
"That’s a step in the right direction," Packham said. "If they did that one series, the following series they should have stopped all of it. They’re not moving with the times, the vast majority of us are conscious of the fact that we need to protect and cherish, restore and repair our natural world."
He added: "If I want to see Nigel Farage eating one thing in this series of I’m A Celebrity, it's his own words."
During the eating trials, I’m A Celebrity campmates who are vegan do not eat the dead insects or the parts of animals.
While the other famous faces were eating sheep penis, goat’s eyes and deer testicles, I’m A Celebrity star Beverley Callard - who went vegan in the March before the show - was served up vomit fruit, fermented plums and tofu in Wales.
Packham questioned: "If they’ve got something which is sufficiently unpalatable for those people, the vegans and vegetarians, who are going to refuse any meat that are participants in the eating trial, why not give it to everyone?
"It just shows they are reluctant to change their outdated ideas. That's all they need to do is find alternatives. Those alternatives are readily available."
Live animals on I'm A Celebrity
Packham lamented the use of live animals on the show. “They have had crocodiles with their mouths bound up with elastic bands so they couldn’t bite anyone,” he said.
"They have had rats which are highly intelligent, sensitive animals, used by humans in many parts of the world to help find mines, bombs and detect cancers. They continue to demean the rat, an animal which plays an important role in the ecosystem."
As well as adapting the eating trials, Packham shared his ideas on how ITV could change their Bushtucker trials involving live animals.
He said: "They could completely flip it, couldn’t they? Rather than exploit those animals and reinforce those horrible stereotypes, they could have an ecologist that comes in to talk to the contestants about the valuable role that these creatures play and how they should respect them.
"Bear in mind, we've lost 69% of all of the world's wildlife since 1970. Everyone knows that we're in deep, deep trouble. They could turn it into a fantastic educational resource for the viewers and spread a good word about these creatures."
Packham hit out at ITV for "undoing" all the good work he and other wildlife presenters do. He said he loves "bringing people the world’s best wildlife programs" that "educate, engage and educate" viewers.
He pondered: "Whilst on ITV, every year for a short silly season, they try to undo all of that work."
I'm A Celebrity camp
Having spent time in northern Australia, Packham has been heavily bitten but he said the I’m A Celeb campmates are never seen being bitten.
The BBC presenter claimed he believes the camp is sprayed and modified before the stars move in, which he said he cannot prove and ITV have previously denied his claims.
"You’re constantly slapping yourself if you’re of that disposition," he claimed. "Or brushing these insects off if you’re of my disposition. And yet when we watch that program, we don't see the participants under an onslaught of insect attack.
"I've heard that they spray the area to remove those insects to make it tolerable for those contestants. Now, I can't prove that that's the case, but that's what I've heard.
"When I watched it, I thought to myself how come they're just not getting annihilated by mosquitoes and other biting insects?
"I imagine there's modification, they will make sure there are no venomous snakes in that camp. the whole thing is probably sanitised to make it essentially a practical working environment for these people. And that would be a dramatic modification that they would be making."
ITV previously denied this saying: "This is categorically not true, as a production we do not spray the jungle or castle area with insecticide, we have a strict environmental plan in place."
Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly
Every year, Packham personally sits down to write an open letter to cheeky I’m A Celebrity hosts Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. "I’ve never received a reply," he claimed.
The animal lover made a plea for viewers to do the same. "They should do what they do every year, which is to complain to the RSPCA, they should complain to ITV," he said.
"They should take to social media and express their horror of the situation so that basically we build a broader public consensus which at some point will topple the decision making in ITV. And they will finally put an end to this ludicrous cruelty and stereotyping."
ITV has responded to Chris Packham’s claims on I’m A Celebrity’s treatment of animals with a statement.
An ITV spokesperson told Yahoo: "We are always fully transparent about our protocols and we have a very strict environmental plan in place on the show. As a production, we comply with all regional and national laws concerning the use of insects, animals and reptiles.
"Welfare and safety is always the primary priority on any of our programmes, and at any Bushtucker trial that features animals, we have qualified and experienced animal handlers on site at all times. We inform the RSPCA NSW of all of our activities on the show and they have an open invitation to attend the site at any time.
"We cannot stress enough that we have rigorous protocols in place to ensure that animals are handled safely at all times, before, during and after any filming has taken place, in compliance with all regional and national laws."
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