Vets heap criticism on ITV for lax animal welfare standards on ‘I’m a Celeb’

22 March 2019

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has sent an open letter (104 KB PDF) to the producers of ITV reality TV series, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here voicing concerns around the welfare of animals used on the show.

The flagged concerns include the apparent mistreatment of a pair of snakes in the UK 2018 series. As part of a task, contestant Emily Atack is seen putting her hand into a closed box containing two snakes that immediately show strong signs of distress. One of the snakes is then seen to be flung onto the floor.

In the letter, BVA highlights several other moments in the show over the years where it says animals are showing signs of anxiety or stress or where the five animal welfare needs (laid out in the Animal Welfare Act of 2006) are not met. It questions whether there is any veterinary involvement on the UK show – as in other countries such as Australia - and recommends that a vet is always on set wherever an animal is present.

The letter follows a number of well-documented complaints to television regulators. BVA hopes that a veterinary perspective will add further weight to persistent animal welfare concerns, flagged year after year.

Daniella Dos Santos, BVA Junior Vice President and a small animal and exotic pet vet, said:

“It’s deeply worrying to see so many instances over the years where animals on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here are showing negative behaviour associated with distress and even times when mistreatment occurs. ITV may see this show as a jewel in its crown, but that must go hand in hand with setting a good example around the treatment of animals to the millions of people who tune in time and again.

“At this time in the year, ITV will probably be starting to line up their next batch of contestants for 2019, but they should put just as much time and effort into considering the welfare needs of all the animals that appear on the show.  We’re particularly keen to get some answers on whether vets are on hand on set to ensure that animals are treated appropriately and protected from suffering distress and harm in the name of entertainment.”

BVA Media Office