Chris Packham demands end to 'appalling abuse of animals' on I'm a Celeb
Ant and Dec "have a powerful voice...they could do something really impressive here"
Chris Packham has once more called out the TV programme I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! for animal abuse. And he argues that as presenters of the show, Ant and Dec, have an ethical responsibility to stand up for nature.
Packham says he has written a "raft of letters" to the show over the years. On 27 November he sent another letter, addressed to Ant and Dec, and made public on Twitter/X. Packham said:
"I’ve tried to be polite but my patience has run thin."
In the letter, he argued that I'm A Celebrity "remains a grotesque blot on the reputations of both yourselves and ITV."
"Its continued exploitation of animals for entertainment is an anachronistic embarrassment and betrays a dangerous disconnect between a world increasingly concerned with an environmental crisis, and a reckless and marginalised part of the media which doesn't appear to give a shit."
Packham went on to say:
"Without a fundamental respect for life, all life, it is difficult for those of us who care to bring enough people on board to initiate essential action to protect and actively restore the world's wildlife. I spend my time trying to engender that respect, your programme recklessly countermands that, and what's absolutely pitiful is that it does it for laughs. Just for amusement."
He pointed out that the show is ITV's biggest earner, with ITV and its on-demand service reporting a revenue of more than £2bn. Packham said I'm A Celebrity is its "biggest single banker".
A trapped rat tries to escape on I'm A Celebrity's 30 November 2023 show. Photo via ITVx/screenshot
Ant and Dec have power
"When I'm working for wildlife programmes as a presenter, I'm a figurehead for that programme. And I must do everything I can to make sure that the integrity, the credibility of that programme, the ethics and the morals are in tact... [Ant and Dec] do have a powerful voice, they're highly respected television presenters with a long history, and they have an enormous following of fans. They could do something really impressive here, and exercise that power within the ITV and say, "look, we love your programme, we'd like to continue working on it, but can we please get rid of these animal-based trials." They have, I believe, the power to exercise that voice, and it's time for them to stand up and be counted at a time when we all have to do so if we want a healthy, sustainable future for our children and grandchildren."
Ant and Dec chat to contestants after celebrities are trapped among rats, spiders, snakes and cockroaches on 30 November 2023. Photo via ITVx/screenshot
During his interview with Vine, Packham addressed the problem of speciesism that exists in the mindset of people in the UK. Speciesism is where someone sees one species as superior to others and puts the rights of that species first. Packham said of the cruelty on insects in the show:
"The insects are put in the pizzas because people are taught to think that insects are disgusting, repugnant creatures... They're still being exploited, even though they're dead, and critically, they're reinforcing these false steps that these animals are repugnant and unpleasant, and they're not. They're absolutely essential to our species survival on our planet..."
"People wouldn't be doing it with kittens and puppies, would they, because they're our companion animals. We've got to break down this disconnect between the way that we partition our views of animals based on a pretext that they're farm animals, "ok, that means, we can eat them", or companion animals, "ooh we can't possibly eat those", and then they're exotic animals, "ooh, we can gawp at those in a zoo, then". And all of this is nonsense."
Packham also appeared on Sky News that same day, saying that I'm A Celeb ridicules, exploits and abuses wildlife. He stated that ITV's inspection and animal welfare laws only apply to the "higher" animals, such as mammals, and possibly some reptiles. But that there are no rules to protect invertebrates. Packham said:
"We are reinforcing stereotypes that, essentially...bugs are bad things, they're unpleasant things.... Bugs make the world go round. Without them, we wouldn't be surviving."
A snake is exploited for entertainment on I'm A Celebrity's 30 November 2023 show. Photo via ITVx/screenshot
I'm A Celebrity's format is archaic and out of touch with modern society. Packham pointed out in his letter that we no longer have animals in circuses in the UK, nor do we have dancing bears, performing dolphins, or chimpanzees dressed in human clothes. Public attitudes have changed and large numbers of the public don't want to see such cruelty; in fact, the RSPCA received more than 17,000 complaints about the 2022 series alone. ITV has chosen to ignore all of these thousands of people.
And as for Ant and Dec, for as long as they are presenters, they are complicit in animal cruelty. The duo hold responsibility for the countless insects, birds, rats and reptiles - as well as kangaroos and other mammals whose testicles have been eaten by contestants - who have been tortured or died for mindless entertainment.
Let's hope Chris Packham's powerful words make the presenters think twice and evaluate their career choices. Ant and Dec can have a massive influence over the future direction of the programme - if only they want to. It's time we respected ALL wildlife, not just some.