I’m a Celebrity is going strong after 21 series, despite a few setbacks during the latest run.
Fan favourite Richard Madeley was forced to quit after a precautionary hospital visit broke the show’s ‘Covid bubble’.
Campmates were then removed from camp due to Storm Arwen battering Wales and the show’s filming location Gwrych Castle. A whole weekend of live shows were cancelled.
Safety comes first, after all. And not just for cast and crew, but the animals and insects involved in filming, too.
Each November, we see the show’s stars get covered in creepy crawlies and even come face to face with live rats, snakes, toads and crabs during the famous Bushtucker trials.
It’s been a point of contention for animal rights’ activists for years – with the RSPCA recently urging ITV to avoid using live animals altogether.
But what actually happens to the animals when they’re on the show, and where do they go afterwards?
What happens to the animals used in Bushtucker trials?
The show broadcaster has confirmed the show complies with UK animal welfare laws on its production and that ITV ‘implements rigorous production practices to ensure that animals are handled safely before, during and after the filming period.’
However, some pressure groups, such as Peta have said this is not enough and that the trials are ‘absolutely wrong.’
ITV has published its protocol which shares how the crew handle live animals, as well as information on where the creatures end up once the trial is done and the cameras stop rolling.
Before the Bushtucker trial
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,’ its procedural document reads.
The broadcaster also asserts that the animals used are commercially bred in the UK and would ‘normally be purchased by zoos and pet stores to feed birds and exotic animals’
As the show currently films in Wales, I’m A Celebrity must follow UK laws about animal protection – including the Animal Welfare Act and the Performing Animals Act.
The RSPCA notes, though, that ‘vertebrate’ animals (such as snakes) are protected by Animal Welfare law – but that ‘invertebrate’ creatures (like spiders or crabs, for example) are not.
‘Invertebrate animals – such as insects, spiders and crabs – don’t have the same legal protection; but at a time when discussions around the capacity for animals to experience feelings like pain are more prominent than ever, we’re concerned that the show is not setting the right example,’ the charity states.
Peta also slams the format of using live animals, saying that the tide of public opinion is turning, and people realise now that ‘animals, no matter their shape or size, shouldn’t be abused for entertainment’ – whether they are cats, dogs, or mealworms.
During the Bushtucker trial
Live animals are taken to the site of Bushtucker trials in special enclosures.
ITV’s procedures state they are ‘temperature controlled’ to meet the animal’s needs, and that the enclosure is approved by a local authority.
During the trial itself, animals are monitored by a specialist animal team, who remain on set at all times. The animals are kept in the enclosures until they are released into ‘controlled’ zones.
Insects, meanwhile, are released into trials (or usually all over the show’s stars) using ‘grate systems’.
RSPCA is sceptical, however, claiming: ‘We’ve seen tens of thousands of insects and other invertebrates poured on top of campers, with many crushed under bodies and feet, or violently shaken off.’
After the Bushtucker trial
Following a bug-covered trial, insects are collected using the grate system. They are then donated to zoos, wildlife trusts and sanctuaries.
This is because the insects sourced for the show are commercially-bred, here in the UK, typically for the purposes of feeding other, larger creatures in said trusts and zoos.
As for live animals, it’s not entirely clear where they go after the trial, or who owns them.
ITV adds of its procedures: ‘We regularly review the measures we have in place and develop them in line with any requirements following engagement with the local authority and other regulatory authorities to ensure they are fit for purpose.’