I’m a Celebrity. 17,000 complaints to UK RSPCA. Why?

The twenty-second series of I’m a Celebrity, of which I haven’t watched twenty-one, has finally ended, with the usual fanfare. It is a show which TV critics believe unites the country in a national conversation and arouses anger over the use of animals. But does anyone really care?

The twenty-second series of I’m a Celebrity, of which I haven’t watched twenty- one, has finally ended, with the usual fanfare. It is a show which TV critics believe unites the country in a national conversation and in some quarters arouses anger over the use of animals. But for the vast majority of viewers it is eagerly awaited and watched. So is it really worth complaining about every year.

This year the number of complaints to the UK RSPCA about the the use of animals increased. But as usual the producers brushed off any complaints because they know the viewers like it just the way it is and they can survive without those that don’t. It makes huge revenue for the ITV so there is no chance of them ever changing the format. People watch it because they like to see the contestants squirm and they like to squirm with them.

If dogs or cats were used on the show.

The animals involved are mostly rats, fish, reptiles and insects which are viewed by many as not “proper animals.” They are not the kind that viewers can empathise with and it is also difficult for people to grasp the notion that such lowly creatures may feel pain or distress, particularly when many cultures eat them anyway.

To most people they are just pests, creepie crawlies, bugs and slimy dangerous reptiles, which we stamp on, spray toxic chemicals on and randomly kill all the time. They are plentiful and not endangered and are mainly of nuisance value to us, so it is difficult to convince anyone to care. Now if dogs or cats were used on the show it would be a different matter. We have, and unfortunately always will have, this rather speciesist and hypocritical attitude to the status of animals and their welfare.

I'm a Celebrity

The RSPCA says:

Every year, we are faced with serious concerns about the use of animals, including snakes, insects and other live creatures during the filming of the show. Since ‘I’m a Celebrity’ was first aired, animals have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences.

RSPCA

The RSPCA has had 22-years to do something about the show without success which is probably proof that it is an impossible task. This is because they do not have the weight of public opinion supporting them. In reality clogging up their telephone lines and workforce is a fruitless task when their time could be better spent dealing urgent cruelty calls in the UK. They do have a campaign at the moment whereby you can email ITV for all the good that will do. Far better perhaps to campaign and complain to the Australian RSPCA and State officials to stop them hosting the show, but of course they have their own version and seem little interested.

No mention of I’m a Celebrity.

There is no mention on the RSPCA NSW website about the show at all and as the show organisers point out the Society has an open invitation to attend and watch filming whenever they want. It would appear they cannot do anything either or be bothered.

Also, did I miss all the demonstrations by environmental and animal rights supporters outside the ITV headquarters in Holborn about the show, or perhaps there weren’t any. Activists seem to be too busy now blocking the M25 to worry about a few bugs, rats and snakes or perhaps too busy watching Matt Hancock eating and wrestling the creatures. Ironically there were far more complaints about him appearing in the show than concern for the animals.

Using animals for our entertainment goes back to the Romans fighting lions in the colosseum and beyond and the attitudes of the general populace haven’t changed in the interim. Most viewers do not really care or prefer to ignore the plight of animals in these circumstances, looking down of those who do as being petty and spoil sports. The show will only end or change when viewers get bored with it or contestants refuse to take part, neither of which seems anytime soon. But yes it is still worth complaining about.

Related articles:

The London airport monkey run.

The London Airport monkey run involved the suffering and death of thousands of monkeys. So many that the media dubbed it the massacre of the monkeys.

Hundreds of thousands of research monkeys and baboons passed through Heathrow Airport between the Second World War and the 1980’s for the pet trade and biomedical research. The airline route was colloquially known as the London airport monkey run by the airlines. There were so many fatalities involved that at one point the media dubbed it the massacre of the monkeys.

The shipments were mostly from India and Africa but also South East Asia and South America. Most were heading for North America and Europe although many were imported into the U.K. In the fifties and sixties there were also specially chartered flights arriving at airports across the country full of monkey shipments. Some of them managed to escape causing media headlines.

London airport monkey run.
Rhesus monkeys at London airport c1960 destined for research. T E Patterson was one of the largest primate traders in the U.K.

The London airport monkey run caused horrific suffering and deaths .

On New Year’s day 1955, 457 Rhesus monkeys were left in an unventilated British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C) van for three hours on the tarmac at London (Heathrow) Airport awaiting loading. When the back door was opened 394 had suffocated to death. Some cynics suggested that the monkeys met a better death by suffocation than they would have done had they reached their destination. Another 1,000 sitting in two ventilated vans survived.

Although a deplorable incident, it was unfortunately a regular occurrence over the decades. Tens of thousands suffered and died from dehydration, pneumonia, starvation, asphyxiation, disease and shock. This was caused by unsuitable crating, overcrowding, extreme temperature and air pressure changes, shock and a total lack of understanding of their needs.

Thousands also suffered or died before reaching the aircraft during capture and holding and journeys to the departure airport. And of course few survived the research done on them.

London Airport monkey run.
60 monkeys in 9 open cages packed seven per cage in cages only suitable for three arrived ‘terrified’ and in a state of shock’ destined for medical research and imported by Shamrock Farms one of the largest primate dealers. Daily Mirror February 1970

RSPCA open a hostel to deal with the carnage.

The situation was so awful that the airlines were forced to seek advice and guidance and turned to the RSPCA. In 1948 the RSPCA had protracted negotiations and discussions  with the airline companies and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Society agreed to act as a clearing house for scientific and practical knowledge on the transport of animals by air.

They also agreed in principle to lease land on the airport to construct a reception centre to care for animals delayed on their journeys or transiting where they could be given food, lodging, exercise, first-aid or veterinary attention. This 24 hour facility opened in 1953 as the RSPCA Airport Hostel for animals.

RSPCA Airport Hostel, Heathrow airport oppened in 1953.
The hostel opened in 1953 to deal with the carnage .

Horror sea voyages.

But it was not just by air that there were problems. The fifties were a cross over time when animal dealers were moving from sea transport to aircraft, but monkey shipments were still suffering on board ships. In September 1959, 300 monkeys left Singapore on what was called a “horror voyage” to London onboard a Ben Line Steamer, and 120 were found dead when they arrived at the docks.

Large adults, youngsters and pregnant females had all been crammed together in crates and fought over food killing each other. They were taken to the RSPCA airport hostel for care, the only place that existed to deal with such an emergency. One the RSPCA staff stated to the media that “it was a terrible sight. I shall forget it for as long as I live”. The monkeys then had to face another voyage to Rotterdam and their destination.

The RSPCA and the media campaigned throughout the 1960’s and into the 1980’s to end the carnage but incidents continued.

Over the next few decades, the staff were to witness regular weekly horror shows and helped and comforted these frightened, stressed and pitiful monkeys. Pulling out the dead and dying and new-born babies or aborted fetuses would often reduce them to tears.

Investigations always promised and guidelines introduced but little changed.

But the horror continued into the 1960’s even though the Government introduced the British Standards for the Carriage of Live Animals by Air in 1961. And in 1970 the International Air Transport Association published mandatory minimum guidelines for transporting animals to those airlines that were members. But few were members and those that were, often ignored them. The guidelines were also badly flawed because of lack of understanding.

Massacre of the monkeys.
Dead squirrel monkeys which were the most commonly used South American primate for biomedical research and pets as they were small and easy to handle. The trade and deforestation decimated wild populations and some species are still vulnerable.[Photo: John Brookland 1979].

It was never going to change because shippers were only interested in keeping shipping costs to the minimum and the carriers did not want to lose money by refusing trade. The airports realised that if they intervened the shippers would avoid Heathrow and route them elsewhere.

Massacre of the monkeys.
Dejected and confused young baboons just released from their cramped crates receiving rest and comfort at Heathrow’s quarantine station before their onward flight to America destined for research. It was always upsetting to see them. [Photo: 1981 John Brookland]

I unfortunately experienced these tragedies in the 70’s and 80’s as an animal inspector and manager of the then Animal Quarantine Station that took over from the RSPCA. What upset me most was the look of despair, hopelessness and fear on their little faces and their dejected demeanour.

Even more sadly they would often put their hands through the wire for reassurance which was heart-breaking. The shame of it allis that the U.K Ministry of Agriculture could have stopped the trade through the airport but decided to ignore it.

Massacre of the monkeys.
Staff care for a shipment at Heathrow’s quarantine station in 1982 before their onward flight. It was heart-breaking when they put their hands out for food and reassurance.[Photo: John Brookland]

Monkeys are still shipped round the world for research.

Deaths continued well into the 1990’s and even today more than 80 years after it all started, primates are still being airlifted in some parts of the world. The numbers may be much smaller and the conditions more controlled but there are still instances where they suffer and die. Welfare organisations still plead with airlines to stop carrying them. They have had some success with many having placed a ban on their carriage.

Associated Book:

A book chronicling the cruelty and suffering caused to animals passing through Heathrow Airport in 1970/80s with graphic images and Foreword by Sir Peter Scott.

Injury damage to health and Cruel treatment book cover
ISBN: 9781519300164 56 pages with b/w photos. RRP £4.99 + £1.50 p&p. UK Orders Only Non UK please contact [email protected] for price.
BUY NOW ONLINE FROM BITZBOOKS USING PAYPAL:

Related Articles:

%d bloggers like this: