26/01/2021 09:55 GMT

ITV Responds To Backlash After Chasers Are Seen Swimming With Dolphins In New Travel Series

Anne Hegerty, Mark Labbett and Shaun Wallace paid a visit to a dolphin sanctuary in the first episode of their new show.

ITV has responded to criticism over an episode of The Chase’s new travel spin-off, which saw the quizzing stars swimming with captive dolphins.

In the first instalment of The Chasers Road Trip: Trains, Brains And Automobiles, quizzers Anne Hegerty, Shaun Wallace and Mark Labbett were all seen paying a visit to the Dolphin Research Centre in Florida.

The trio were then seen attending a session in which they swam alongside the dolphins, which came under fire from some viewers, as well as attracting criticism from the RSPCA.

Anne Hegerty takes a swim with dolphins in the Chasers' new spin-off

In a statement, the animal welfare charity said: “We were disappointed to see animals being used in this way on The Chasers Road Trip. Swimming with dolphins may seem appealing to holidaymakers but we know that in reality they often have restricted space and can find swimming with people all day very stressful.

“Keeping dolphins and whales captive deprives them of some of the most basic freedoms and causes them unacceptable levels of stress and suffering.

“Captivity cannot provide for their needs and they can live shortened lives.”

Dolphins pictured at the Dolphin Research Centre in Florida

Defending the inclusion of these scenes, ITV told Digital Spy: “There is no endorsement of mistreatment of animals in this programme.

“As the show makes clear to viewers, it sets out to challenge and enlighten our understanding of animal intelligence and does so in a way that prompts the Chasers to reflect on the ways animals are treated by humans within our cultures and ask whether this should change.” 

Mark also swam with dolphins in the episode

They added: “The Dolphin Research Centre where filming took place is a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, the international accrediting body for marine parks, aquariums, zoos and research facilities.”

Trains, Brains And Automobiles sees three of ITV’s Chasers travelling the globe to test their intelligence, meeting child geniuses and prodigies, as well as exploring the intellect of various animals.

The trio take a drive across America in their new travel show

The Chase launched in 2009 with just Mark Labbett and Shaun Wallace before Anne Hegerty joined the group a year later, with Paul Sinha added in 2011.

Jenny Ryan then became the show’s fifth resident Chaser in 2015, with sixth addition Darragh Ennis joining last year.