Animal welfare group Campaign Against Canned Hunting has rejected donations from Network TEN’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, due to the show’s inclusion of a lion cub in a recent episode.
Dean Geyer had nominated CACH as his chosen charity but Chris Mercer and Linda Park, Directors said in a statement, “We were very happy to hear that Dean Geyer selected CACH has his charity of choice but we cannot endorse a program that sends out a wrong message to the public – that cub petting is OK.
“Our concerns were raised after watching Episode 10, where Jo Beth was participating in the ‘foot fetish’ challenge which involved using a 5 week old white lion cub. Dr Chris Brown shared that the cub was abandoned by it’s mother and that the other cubs had died and it was part of a breeding program due to white lions being critically endangered. He mentioned that it wasn’t part of the canned hunting industry.
“It would seem that Network TEN has been duped by the same story told to thousands of gullible tourists and volunteers. Lion farmers/captive lion breeders are astute to hide the ultimate fate of their alternative livestock – canned hunting. This is because cub petting/lion walks etc are such a profitable spin-off from the main purpose:- that of rearing lions to huntable size.”
A TEN spokesperson said, “Network TEN takes the welfare of animals very seriously and condemns the hunting of animals. Network TEN, along with ITV Australia, the producers of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! follow the guidelines as stipulated by the governing authorities, including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), to ensure all animals used on set are handled calmly, correctly and safely.
“The production followed all due diligence procedures required by the SPCA. ITV and Network Ten condemn any canned hunting of animals.”
The white lion cub came from Letaba River Lodge Eco Park in Tzaneen.
But CACH says Letaba is a commercial breeding operation whose breeding activities have no conservation value. None of their lions will ever be released back to the wild.
“The reference to ‘SPCA assessed’ is typical of lion farmers’ public relations,” said a CACH statement. “The NSPCA has no authority to assess for ethics or for involvement in canned hunting. All the NSPCA can do is to inspect the facility to check that basic animal welfare is being observed; that the water in the camps is clean, permit conditions are being complied with, and such.
“Dr Brown and/or the producers need to do their homework before endorsing activities that send such an irresponsible message. White lions are highly prized by hunters, private collectors, zoos and circuses around the world because of this rarity he speaks about. Where does he think these animals come from or end up? By handling cubs, this program and Dr Brown are endorsing the cycle of exploitation these animals face, and undermining our work.”
Volunteer group For the Love of Wildlife has also condemned the inclusion of the 5 week old lion cub and three very young leopard cubs. It claims the animal sourcing contractor on the TEN series was given one day to locate a cub even after he said he needed more time. It contacted ITV exec Ben Ulm over the matter.
“It’s very disappointing that Network TEN didn’t do their research but what’s more appalling is that they ignored expert conservation advice. They were well informed and yet chose to then let Shane Warne and Val Lehman engage YET again with three very young leopard cubs, handling, petting and cuddling them in a defiant show of indulgence and support of the petting/canned hunting industry,” founder Donalea Patman said in a statement.
“It’s also disappointing to see Dr Chris Brown voice his concerns about canned hunting, telling us that the cub he was handling shouldn’t be ‘petted’ while he does precisely that: what these celebrities and Network TEN are endorsing is irresponsible and is directly fuelling the trade of exploitation of endangered animals.”