I’m a Celebrity has drawn criticism from animal rights groups throughout its run, with the use of live and dead animals in the “bushtucker trials” a recurring source of controversy.
Peta previously called for a boycott of the series over the “animal cruelty” involved in the show.
Now, Peta have sent an open letter to Ant and Dec urging them to dissassociate themselves from the production.
In a letter sent to the popular presenters on Thursday, and shared on the organisation’s website, the group told the pair: “For too long, you have been complicit in cruelty to animals on the show, and it must end.
“The longer you associate yourselves with this show, the more you send the message to viewers that you think animal abuse is not only acceptable but also entertaining.”
The letter claims that “public attitudes” towards the use of animals on screen have changed “considerably” in recent years, citing the more than 50,000 people who backed Peta’s petition urging ITV to stop “abusing” animals on the series.
It also notes that 10,000 people complained to Ofcom last year over the treatment of animals on the show.
“It’s time to read the writing on the wall,” the letter continues. “For 20 years, you have been complicit in the ‘bushtucker trials’, standing by as animals of all descriptions are tormented – and even killed – for TV ratings.
“In this time, you must surely have become aware of the suffering, discomfort, and fear that these unwilling participants endure during the challenges. Ostriches, crocodiles, snakes, rats, and thousands of insects have been exploited for the show’s puerile pranks – and we fear that the upcoming series will be no different.”
The letter, which can be read in full here, concludes by saying: “Leaving I’m a Celebrity would signal to the show’s producers that people aren’t going to stand for senseless cruelty to animals anymore and that it’s time to change. So please, hang up your hats and get yourselves out of there – for animals’ sake.”
A spokesperson for the show said in response: “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.”