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British network fined for incident in which a rat was killed and eaten on reality TV show

February 8, 2010 |  8:06 pm

DontJustDont British broadcaster Independent Television (ITV) pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was fined by an Australian court Monday after a rat was killed and eaten on the reality TV show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

The broadcaster was taken to court by the RSPCA in Australia in December after two of the contestants caught a rat and killed it in a bid to feed their hungry teammates.

Celebrity chef Gino D'Acampo and soap star Stuart Manning were both charged with animal cruelty after the stunt in which the creature was served up with rice and beans. "I saw one of these rats running around," D'Acampo, who went on to win the show, said of the incident. "I got a knife, I got its throat, I picked it up."

The RSPCA said that killing a rat as part of a TV stunt was "not acceptable".

ITV said it had "apologized for the mistake" and was ordered to pay A$2,500 in fines.

Sky News, a British news outlet, reported on Monday that ITV admitted its production staff had given the go-ahead to a request to kill the rat.

The court was told that the rat took a minute and a half to die after being stabbed with a knife, which the magistrate said caused unnecessary pain to the animal.

"The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offense, criminal or otherwise in New South Wales, and accepts that further inquiries should have been made," the spokesman said. "This was an oversight and we have since thoroughly reviewed our procedures and are putting in place a comprehensive training program to ensure that this does not happen in future series."

Contestants who ate the dish apparently enjoyed it; Hollywood legend George Hamilton described it as "actually quite nice."

"We all said it was like chicken but chickeny-beefy kind of stuff so it was actually very nice. If you kill it you should eat it," the actor said after leaving the show in December.

"I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here" is reminiscent of the hit "Survivor" and pits contestants against each other in a knock-out contest that involves a series of scary and stomach-churning tasks in a remote setting. The second season of the American version, which aired in 2009, featured Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, "American Idol's" Sanjaya Malakar and Janice Dickinson.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy (Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy)

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