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RSPCA calls for Ofcom rule change as ‘I’m A Celebrity’ returns to ITV

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RSPCA calls for Ofcom rule change as ‘I’m A Celebrity’ returns to ITV

Programme accused of thoughtless abuses for the sake of viewing figures by the animal charity.

RSPCA head of wildlife Dr Ros Clubb:

“Programmes like ‘I’m A Celebrity’ are still flagrantly disregarding the welfare of animals in the interest of a quick thrill and there’s currently nothing in the Broadcasting Code to dissuade them. That’s got to change. Animals should not be crushed and killed on television for entertainment. Anyone who agrees with us can back our calls for change on the RSPCA website.”

Ofcom is ‘useless’ is a term often seen on social media as the television regulator appears to be rather pointless at the best of times. The days of the IBA – Independent Broadcasting Authority – are long gone, when they could demand a programme be removed from the air due to failing to meet their quality standards.

However, despite the regulator being toothless, the RSPCA is calling for Ofcom to revise its Broadcasting Code to include rules on the use of live animals in entertainment, amid fears the latest series of ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ will again celebrate the mistreatment of animals.

The charity notes that the ITV programme places many living creatures in dangerous and unnatural situations, harming animals on set and potentially encouraging ‘copy-cat’ trials from viewers at home. Across 22 seasons of I’m a Celebrity, animals have sadly been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences.

A record 20,000 complaints were made to ITV about the show’s continued mistreatment of live animals last year – including concerns over the notorious ‘Bushtucker Trials’. Now, the animal welfare charity has called on regulator, Ofcom, to reflect the views of the public and put an end to animal suffering in the pursuit of viewing figures.

But Ofcom currently has limited ability to tackle this issue, as its Broadcasting Code currently lacks any specific guidance on the acceptable standards around the treatment and depiction of animals in entertainment. The RSPCA is urging Ofcom to update its Broadcasting Code to help protect animals from mistreatment and abuse – and those with concerns about the show can take action via the RSPCA’s website.

The RSPCA’s call comes just weeks after the Online Safety Act came into law – which includes new measures for the policing of animal cruelty content online.

RSPCA head of wildlife Dr Ros Clubb:

“We are calling for the Broadcasting Code to be urgently evaluated and strengthened in order to help protect animals from mistreatment and abuse. Just weeks after the Online Safety Act came into force, including new measures on policing animal cruelty content online, it’s clear we need further action on Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code too.

“A reasonable next step would be to add a rule to the Code specifically regarding the treatment and depiction of animals. The RSPCA would be happy to help in the development of associated guidance. This would give Ofcom the ‘teeth’ to come down hard on broadcasters who are making a mockery of the UK’s reputation as a country of animal lovers.”

The RSPCA has campaigned against the use of animals in the show due to serious concerns about animal welfare. Sadly, the use of live animals has been a constant feature of the show since it first aired in 2002. The RSPCA believes that in addition to causing distress to animals, the programme risks a negative portrayal of animals which may cause viewers – including children – to develop negative perceptions of certain species. There is also concern that those watching the programme may seek to mimic particular ‘Bushtucker Trials’.

RSPCA head of wildlife Dr Ros Clubb:

“Ofcom has previously been bombarded with complaints about ‘I’m a Celebrity’, but sadly has stated they were unable to pursue an investigation. While the Broadcasting Code does not yet sufficiently cover the use of animals in entertainment, we believe that when assessing content aired on our TV screens, Ofcom should be able to take into account the treatment of animals featured, as well as the likelihood of encouraging harmful copycat activities, when ruling whether content is appropriate for broadcast.

“It’s time for the regulator to ensure that ITV, the programme-makers and producers act responsibly by not only treating animals with respect but sending the right message to viewers across Britain. We are urging Ofcom to revise the Broadcasting Code in favour of protecting animals and the British public so they can finally enjoy entertainment without mistreatment of animals.”

Concerns about the programme’s treatment of animals follows new research by the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA via the Animal Kindness Index, which revealed that over two-thirds (69%) of respondents – an estimated 36 million people across the UK – describe themselves as animal lovers.

Animal lovers who want to help stop the use of live animals in entertainment are urged to visit the RSPCA’s website at rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/imaceleb.

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