I’m a Celeb: what happens to the bugs, snakes and rats on I’m a Celebrity - what has the RSPCA said?

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The Bushtucker trials sees celebrities take on the likes of snakes, spiders, rats, cockroaches and more in a bid to secure precious stars for the camp

I’m a Celebrity is returning to our screens tonight, Monday 24 April, with the reality show heading to South Africa for the first time. The show, which began in 2002, is well known for its infamous Bushtucker trials, which sees celebrities tackle creepy crawlies, snakes, spiders, eels and more.

Ahead of the return of reality series, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have revealed that a record 20,000 animal lovers complained about the show in 2022, a figure which almost doubled over a period of three years. 

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In 2022, the RSPCA launched a campaign in a bid to stop the use of live creatures on I’m a Celeb, stating that since the programme first aired, animals “have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences”. 

The charity also added: “With this year’s series return to Australia, we’re more concerned than ever about the use of live animals on the show and the example it sets for viewers.”

The 2021 series saw additional concern that the show was using bugs that were not native to Wales, to which ITV said in a statement that “all of the insects used on I’m A Celebrity are non-invasive species”.

So, what happens to the animals that are used in I’m a Celeb Bushtucker trials and where do they go after their involvement? Here’s everything you need to know.

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What are Bushtucker trials?

Bushtucker trials are a vital part of I’m a Celeb. Contestants are chosen by the public to take part in a gruelling challenge in order to win stars which can then be exchanged for food. Themes can include placing the celebrities in confined spaces, heights or subjecting them to creepy crawlies and over types of animals.

Often contestants are chosen to undergo a trial that they fear the most, for sheer entertainment factor.

What happens to the animals in Bushtucker trials?

The animals who take part in the Bushtuker trial episodes are reportedly kept in special enclosures which are approved by the local authorities.

Reported by Sky News in 2021, they are kept in “temperature controlled” enclosures which meet the animal’s needs, and are monitored by a specialist animal team, who remain on set at all times. Whilst the insects used in trials are released using “grate systems”.

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After taking part in the trials, ITV said the insects are “donated to local wildlife sanctuaries, trusts and zoos for their exotic animal and bird feed after filming”.

What has the RSPCA said about the new season of I’m a Celeb?

In the run up to the newest season of I’m a Celeb returning to TV screens, the RSPCA has said that “despite rocketing numbers of complaints from RSPCA supporters about the show’s ongoing animal welfare failings” the show appears to be going ahead with no changes made in regards to the use of animals. 

The RSPCA said that despite 11,887 complaints made in 2020, 12,813 in 2021 and 19,492 in 2022, the charity fears that I’m a Celebrity “will once again put sentient animals such as reptiles in distressing and inappropriate situations and invertebrate animals at risk of being crushed during trials, trivialising their lives”. 

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “Sadly, it’s almost certain we’ll yet again be seeing live animals on our TV screens put in situations that could compromise their welfare for a quick laugh. Despite a record number of complaints from animal lovers last year, the programme makers still show no real signs of changing course - and the old saying that a leopard doesn’t change its spots unfortunately still rings true.

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“We are also deeply concerned at the way the programme portrays animals; it risks trivialising their lives for the sake of light ‘entertainment’. With people discussing how scared they are, and animals portrayed in such a negative light, this programme is a long way from the RSPCA’s vision of a world where all animals are respected and treated with kindness and compassion.

“And now that animal sentience - the ability of animals to have positive and negative experiences like pain, distress or pleasure - is recognised in UK law, portraying live animals to UK viewers in this way in I’m a Celebrity is out of sync with this progressive step back home.

“We’ve previously urged the production company behind I’m a Celebrity to think again - and entertain the animal-loving UK public without resorting to anti-animal Bushtucker Trials; and thousands of supporters have made their feelings abundantly clear.”

Sherwood added: “It’s encouraging that a record 19,492 of our supporters wrote to ITV Viewer Services last year to air their views. We believe it is very possible to produce this programme without compromising the welfare of animals, so urge all those connected with I’m a Celebrity to re-think and update this show in line with public opinion.”

What has ITV said?

NationalWorld has contacted ITV for comment.

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In 2021, as reported by Metro, ITV gave a statement regarding the treatment of animals on the show.

They said: “ITV Studios uses a ‘specialist licensed animal company’ throughout the programme’s run.The company has extensive and detailed experience of all animals that are featured and working with animals in film and television.”

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