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SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) - British broadcaster 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."
Italian chef Gino D'Acampo and British actor Stuart Manning were originally charged with animal cruelty last December after an RSPCA complaint over an episode filmed in Australia that involved killing and cooking a rat.
But Sky News reported Monday that ITV admitted its production staff had given the go-ahead to a request to kill the rat and the broadcaster pleaded guilty to the charge.
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.
ITV was fined A$3,000 ($2,600) and ordered to pay A$2,500 in costs.
RSPCA Chief Inspector David O'Shannessy said all animals are protected under the Cruelty to Animals Act in the state of New South Wales.
"An animal was inflicted with unnecessary pain and distress. Had the circumstances been different and the rat killed outright we wouldn't be talking about it here today," he told Sky News.
A spokesman for ITV said the broadcaster had apologized
for the mistake which led to the incident.
"The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offense, criminal or otherwise, in New South Wales, and accepts that further enquiries should have been made," a 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."
"I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here" pits contestants against each other in a knock-out contest which involves a series of scary and stomach-churning tasks in a remote setting.
D'Acampo was the winner of the latest series.
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith and Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison