Chris Packham “disgusted” and “disappointed” by Ferne McCann’s live spider-eating on I’m a Celebrity

But the nature presenter says he is heartened by the backlash and reckons the days of insect-eating on the ITV series are numbered

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In November last year Chris Packham wrote an open letter to presenters Ant and Dec in Radio Times lambasting I’m a Celebrity …Get Me Out of Here! for encouraging the “abuse” of animals.

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In the most recent series of the ITV entertainment show, it became clear that his pleas had fallen on deaf ears when TOWIE star Ferne McCann ate a live spider on the show – attracting hundreds of complaints to broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

But while Packham said he was “disgusted” by incident – which he said would have caused the spider “pain” – he believes that he is winning the argument.

Packham, whose new BBC2 series World’s Sneakiest Animals begins on BBC2 on Christmas Day, told RadioTimes.com: “I have been away for three weeks, but I have obviously arrived back disgusted. I am really disappointed. I continue to be disappointed that an otherwise entertaining programme promotes the stereotypical views and the negative views about animals that I and my colleagues continue to enthuse about and to educate people about.

“I see it as counter-productive. I think in the long term [insect-eating] won’t have a future. I think things will change. I understand there was quite a backlash against the spider-eating.

“It countermands everything that I stand for that myself and my colleagues try to do when we make programmes.

“It says this is a spider, it’s not likable and it’s not valuable because we can destroy it for entertainment. And that’s not acceptable in the 21st Century.”

In his open letter to presenters Ant and Dec in 2014, Packham urged them to reconsider the “use/abuse” of animals in the series.

“It spoils the show because it’s simply out of date, some would say barbaric,” he wrote.

“And actually it’s often pretty silly too, because many viewers recognise that the species used are not dangerous, or significantly toxic or venomous in the first place.

“Or that they’ve been ‘doctored’, their fangs sealed, their jaws bound so, even under the stress they’re exposed to, they couldn’t possibly harm any of your guests. But then, let’s face it, as we all know, you couldn’t let that happen anyway. It’s a sham.”

Packham revealed that he asked the presenters repeatedly to respond to his open letter but they declined. He says he was aware of a “sarcastic” reference to his complaints made on the show.

Asked about his campaigning, Packham insisted that he has agreed “protocols” with the BBC about when he speaks out and says he never uses his shows as a platform for his views on animals welfare.

Lobby group The Countryside Alliance has called for his sacking because of his open declaration of views on issues like badger culling, but he says he will not be deterred.

Asked about his fervour on the issue of animal rights and whether he “disliked” the human species, Packham said:  “It doesn’t mean I don’t like individual humans, of course, and a large number of them. But it’s difficult to think positively about the human species at this point in time. We’re a hugely destructive force. So if you said to me ‘which species do I like the least on earth?’ well there would only be one contender. But that doesn’t mean I am misanthropic of course. I would say that it is a pragmatic biological view of the species.” 

In his new three-part BBC series, Packham examines the devious tactics used by a variety of animals to survive and avoid predators, including the baby bird that pretends to be a noxious caterpillar and the lizard that feigns death to avoid being eaten by snakes.

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World’s Sneakiest Animals airs on BBC2 on December 25 at 6.30pm