At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old woman, I don’t watch I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here. It’s probably a symptom of my self-obsession, but I just don’t care enough about a bunch of people I occasionally see on TV or in a film to want to watch them messing around in a jungle. However not only do I not watch it, I don’t APPROVE of it.
If a television programme wants to send some semi-famous folk off into the wilds to cavort around in tents, trying to rough it – fine. Muck about trying to cook rice over an open fire; or cross a river with a bridge made out of coconut shells and a ball of twine, by all means. What has me upset is the Bushtucker bit, where live creatures like cockroaches and meal worms are served up for people to eat. Or the hapless little beasts are dumped in baths and/or showers while half-panicking contestants thrash around. There must be a fair proportion of injuries and deaths caused – never mind about the stress of being poured in their hundreds over a squealing starlet, busy trying to flick them off.
Let me hasten to add, I’m not majorly into animal rights. I think the way that the scientists and their families working at Huntington Life Sciences were targeted and terrorised is disgraceful. But, I do wonder where all these do-gooders get to when insects and spiders are being treated like throwaway props all in the name of entertainment. I’m aware that in parts of the world, insects are a staple food. But I’m willing to bet that no one appearing on I’m a Celebrity… makes a regular habit of eating live grubs, meal worms or cockroaches. It isn’t part of our culture. There seems to be something of a blind spot, here. When animals are being tested to ensure products are safe for us to use, there are now a set of standards to ensure they are treated as humanely as possible. And quite right, too. If we decide – very reluctantly – that this is the only way to safeguard consumers from damaging and unpleasant side effects, it’s the least that society can do to ensure they are properly cared for.
But, what about the creatures in the jungle? Why are they not covered? Is it because insects and spiders aren’t deemed important enough? Or is it because the local laws don’t cover such things? And why haven’t viewers in their hundreds and thousands protested at the revolting sight of someone chomping down on a wriggling bug?
In 2000, there was an art exhibition in a small museum in Denmark, the Trapholt Art Museum. Artist (I use the term very loosely) Marco Evaristti displayed ten blenders, each containing a goldfish, with the option for the viewing public to liquidise a fish. I’d love to tell you that no one pressed the button. But, of course they did.
Shocked visitors called the police, who charged the museum curator with animal cruelty. The case went to trial, where the charges were dropped because it was decided that the fish died very quickly and ‘humanely’. We live in a funny old world, don’t we? I think the court missed the point. By what right does someone decide that fish have to die on a whim, by calling it art? Or entertainment? These days, Mr Evaristti is very involved in trying to get the death penalty repealed in the USA. I’m hoping it’s because he is now sorry about those goldfish…