A major animal charity has withdrawn support for ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ after the reality TV show came under fire for 'exploiting' a five-week-old lion cub in a challenge.
The challenge involved celebrity contestant Jo Beth Taylor using her feet to try and guess what animal she was touching.
Scenes from the show also showed the stars holding and patting the cub.
Another contestant, Dean Geyer, nominated Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) as the charity of his choice, sparking a huge uproar with the organisation.
In a statement to Network Ten, the charity withdrew from the program, saying:
“By handling cubs, this program and Dr Brown are endorsing the cycle of exploitation these animals face, and undermining our work.”
Canned hunting is the practice of raising lions with the sole purpose of hunting it when it has reached maturity.
The cub on the show allegedly came from a captive breeding farm, raised and petted to be tame.
Many of these cubs are sold for canned hunts, where they are released into a fenced area and killed.
Animal welfare organisation For the Love of Wildlife said the appearance of the cub on the reality show was completely against what CACH represented.
"You're engaging in handling predators, these animals are wild at heart predators, should never be handled,” charity founder Donalea Patman told 7 News.
Environment minister Greg Hunt also found the practice disturbing.
"It's butchering lions for fun and profit, it's not acceptable.
"It's essentially breeding lions to slaughter them. Australia was the first country in the world to ban the importation of lion parts and trophies."
According to the new documentary Blood Lions, there are up to 7,000 lions in captive breeding in South Africa compared to about 3,000 in the wild and on managed reserves.
Up to 1,500 lions are shot each year, most in canned hunts.
In South Africa, there's a 95% chance that tame lion cubs will be shot in a small enclosure by tourists who've paid for a trophy to hang on the wall.
In a statement, Network Ten said the production followed all due diligence procedures required by authorities and Dr Brown is a respected veterinarian.
News break – March 14