Reality TV shows which put live insects or sheep eyeballs on the menu usually elicit sympathy for the contestants forced to gobble down a vomit-inducing meal. But now, the broadcasting self-regulator says you should spare a thought for the fear factor induced in the animals — which are being “exploited for human entertainment” — as well.

In an advisory issued to all channels this week, the Broadcasting Complaints Content Council (BCCC) — assisted by “valuable suggestions” from Member of Parliament and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi — has warned that content which “is in any way harmful to the health and well-being, as well as the depiction, of any animal or species…is not suitable for public viewing.”

The advisory specifically fingered reality shows as prime culprits. “For instance, live insects are eaten to show courage in a manner that is distasteful and not conducive to health. A few channels have a reality show in which animals are killed week after week and animal parts such as sheep eyeballs and worms eaten in order to show bravery,” said the BCCC.

It also condemned shows which show animals being stalked or teased, with tails being pulled or food pulled away in a bid to depict “veritable torture of animals as an ‘act of bravery’.” “Some animals are depicted as cruel or fearful, when they are simply responding to unnatural environments,” it said.

“Animals must not continue to be exploited for human entertainment especially when we live in an enlightened age that recognises the value of all species in a universal ecosystem.”

Reality shows have a history of confrontations with animal rights activists across the world. The Amazing Race Australia got into trouble for episodes that reportedly involved dragging bisons with nose-rings, chasing chickens into small wire pots and mishandling pregnant goats. Fear Factor has faced regular accusations of animal abuse for stunts which ask participants to eat live bugs, pick up live snakes with their teeth, and sit in a tub with hundreds of scary — and scared — animals.

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