RSPCA smells a rat

MURWILLUMBAH police have charged a pair of B-grade British celebrities with animal cruelty charges due to their antics on television show I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here.

Celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo, who won the show, and soap star Stuart Manning were arrested and charged after cooking what is believed to be a tame rat and serving it with rice as a meal for fellow contestants.

D’Acampo, 33, and Manning, 30, were confronted by RSPCA officers after filming ended late last week on the TV show’s set near Dungay in the Tweed Shire.

The pair were reportedly questioned about how they caught and beheaded the rat before adding it to a risotto.

They have been ordered to appear at Murwillumbah Local Court on February 3.

If found guilty, the pair face up to three years in jail. The ITV network, which broadcasts the program in Britain, could also face charges.

RSPCA NSW chief inspector David O’Shannessy said it was unacceptable for the rat to have been killed for a TV show.

He said there was a code of practice dictating how animals could be used in theatrical productions and films.

“The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The concern is this was done purely for the cameras.

“Production staff have to submit a notification form to the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League.

“But we received no pre-notice or advice this segment was going to occur, it happened on a day no animals were featuring in production, so we didn’t have an officer there.”

The show’s producers were ordered by the RSPCA to hand over footage showing how the rat, which was believed to be tame, was killed.

D’Acampo and Manning had been filmed telling contestants how they had caught the rat in the bush before the chef killed it with his kitchen knife and skinned it.

The Italian-born chef held the dead rodent up to show his fellow contestants, who had been mainly surviving on a meagre diet of rice and beans, before beginning to cook it.

“It was the best recipe I ever did,” he said afterwards.

“It was beautiful.”

NSW police confirmed the arrests of the two celebrities in a statement on Saturday.

“Police from Murwillumbah yesterday issued field court attendance notices to two men aged 30 and 33 for the offence of animal cruelty,” the statement said.

“They are due to attend court at Murwillumbah local court on February 3, 2010.”

Millions of Britons tune in each year to watch the show, which features celebrity contestants having to undergo “bush tucker trials” involving snakes, spiders and other insects found in the “jungle”.

Viewers back in Britain vote for which celebrity they want to win the show, which in the past has featured Australian pop star Peter Andre who met his former wife, glamour model Jordan, on the set.

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