Another series of ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ is over and once again I am left with a bitter taste in the back of my throat. With one notable exception, my discomfort cannot be attributed to the actions of the celebrities but rather to those responsible for the production who continue to to use animals as a source of entertainment with no regard for their welfare. This series included a variety of invertebrates, small mammals, snakes and crabs (to name a few) which formed part of the ‘Bush Tucker Trials’ and were once again thrown into uncomfortable, and often deadly, situations for the sake of our so-called entertainment. For a lot of people the 5 freedoms form the backbone of animal welfare on which they can build their own ethical code but I can’t help but feel that a number of these were being broken on a daily basis.
For reference, the 5 freedoms are:
- Freedom from thirst and hunger
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to behave normally
- Freedom from fear and distress
Now I’d like to think that we can take no. 1 as a given and assume that all animals featured in the show were given food and water, I actually have no doubt about that, but I hope you will agree that the rest are questionable. As far as ‘freedom from pain, injury and disease’ goes, THEY ATE LIVE ANIMALS! How do they justify this as an ethically acceptable way to kill a living creature? I think we can agree that this was not free of pain and injury! How anyone can think that this is acceptable behaviour and suitable for television is beyond me, especially as some of these shows started before the watershed – do we really want to be teaching children that this is a healthy attitude towards the natural world?! In one trial crabs could clearly be seen with their claws taped and though I can appreciate that the producers want to save the celebrities from injury, this is stripping that animal of its ability to defend itself if threatened therefore denying it of freedom 4, 5 and, arguably, 2. The celebrities could also be seen regularly having to stand on and/or swat away animals that were considered to be in their way or irritating; it’s not the animals fault that they were put in that position. And the above is just the tip of the iceberg, when you start to think about it you’ll be amazed by the depth of the ethically murky waters we are treading.
Now a special mention to the deplorable Lady C who burnt a beetle alive when it had the audacity to come into camp – that defenceless beetle was not the intruder in your home, you were the intruder in his! Some of you will claim that I am being over dramatic and I have had a number of people question my stance that insects are animals and should therefore be held to the same welfare standards as other animals, so considering most of you reading this will be scientists of one form or another, let me show you with the subject you hold so dear – taxonomically all of the above from insect to small mammals to the crocodiles used in some shows, belong to the kingdom animalia therefore making them animals! In (very) simplified terms, using the three kingdoms established by Linnaeus, they are not vegetable or mineral, so what else would they be?!
All of this being said, many of you know that I have spoken openly in the past about my believe that eating insects is going to become an increasingly important source of protein in the western world, in line with eastern mentalities, and I don’t want you to think that this and the stance above contradict one another. As with my decision to eat meat, I believe in stringent welfare laws and ethical slaughter so I don’t consider the two issues to be comparable. During my time working alongside the vets at Twycross Zoo I was heartened to discover that all the animals in their collection had a euthanasia plan, a pre-approved method of euthanasia that could be implemented if the worst came to the worst, and this included the insects in an educational exhibit that they had visiting. These animals that were not being kept for food but still bred for captivity and the zoo vets were very aware of their responsibility to this exhibition being equal to that of their extensive primate population for example. They had a large number of different species under their care but none was held above, or below, another and all were treated with the respect they deserved. It’s a shame those involved in the making of ‘I’m a Celeb…’ couldn’t work to the same ethical code!
Despite all of the above, all of the (in my opinion) irrefutable, televised proof of animal cruelty, the people I hold most responsible, ahead of even the makers of the show, are us, the viewing public. The only reason these animals were put in this position was for the entertainment of us as an audience and by continuing to watch the show and maintain the ratings, we are responsible for this continued cruelty and I am ashamed to have been part of it.
Remember, animals are not here for our entertainment.