Are Any Animals Or Insects Harmed On 'I'm A Celebrity'? This Is Why The Bushtucker Trials Are So Controversial
It's the show where celebs aren't treated with a whole lot of love — they're thrown into the middle of the jungle with the very barest of necessities, and basically made to feel constantly hungry for a few weeks. But what about their bug campmates? They're probably not given the five-star treatment either, but for some viewers, how the animals and bugs are treated is a cause for concern. I'm here to get to the bottom of the issue, and I want to know — are any animals or insects harmed on I'm A Celeb?
Year in, year out, I'm A Celeb draws accusations of cruelty, due to its use of live insects and animals. The Bushtucker Trials, which see the celebs chomping down on some jungle specialities, à la grub and testicles, have probably caused the most controversy. I reached out to a spokesperson for ITV who told me, "We are in regular contact with the RSPCA NSW who have been notified of all the Bushtucker Trials involving mammals or reptiles — inspectors have an open invitation to attend any trial at any time.
“At each of the Bushtucker Trials, which feature animals or insects, we have qualified and experienced animal and insect handlers on site and every trial has been carefully tested and developed."
Still, some viewers were especially enraged, when in 2016's series, Gogglebox's Scarlett Moffatt was made to eat a live beetle in her trial, as The Mirror reported in November 2017. Back in 2015, 533 viewers complained to broadcasting regulator Ofcom over Ferne McCann eating a live spider on the show, according to The Independent. A spokesperson for ITV told The Mirror at the time, "I'm a Celebrity... complies with all regional and international laws concerning the use of insects in the eating trials, which have become a well-established part of the show over the past 15 years.”
Ofcom has previously dismissed complaints about the show's treatment of animals and insects. In 2016 the broadcasting regulator told The Sun, “We assessed a number of complaints about the tasks given to contestants. However, these were in keeping with the well-established format of this reality series, and were unlikely to have exceeded the expectations of the audience.”
Chris Packham, presenter of Naturewatch, was one of the first to point out what he felt was the mistreatment of animals and insects on the show. According to the Daily Mail, Packham told Yours magazine in a 2009 that he believed that "the people working on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! have no regard for creatures' lives."
He also claimed that "if a celebrity trod on a cat it would be on the front page of every newspaper but they jump up and down on as many cockroaches, spiders and bugs as they like." In 2014, when Packham reiterated his disapproval of the show's use of animals and insects in an article for the Radio Times, a spokesperson for the broadcaster told the publication, "ITV takes animal welfare very seriously and expert handlers are on hand at all times.”
The show's use of insects and animals has inspired several thinkpieces in recent years, which have described the Bushtucker Trials as "cruel". During 2017's series, Huffington Post wrote the show, "It's time to stop abusing animals," with Sarah Moyes writing, "It has become perfectly acceptable to take a crocodile from its natural habitat, tape up its mouth, and put it in a tank of water so that Wayne Bridge can swim through it to a win a trial."
That article came out around the same time the majority of MPs at Westminster ruled that animals don't feel pain, as part of the EU bill, The Independent reported on Nov. 20, 2017. But in the same month, The Telegraph said that the question of whether insects felt pain didn't matter when it came to the case of I'm A Celeb. "As living animals, and a vital part of our ecosystem, they deserve respect and understanding," journalist Rebecca Hawkes wrote.
And while I agree with that sentiment, I can't help but feel there might be some cultural hypocrisy at play here. Why is it not OK to eat a lumpy witchetty grub, but perfectly acceptable to wash down a glass of champagne with a live oyster? While it's indeed understandable that some might question the show's treatment of animals, I can't help but feel there's an important part of the argument still missing. Get the celebs to eat a bucket of live oysters and it'd be called fancy, not cruelty. Shouldn't that be questioned too?