An animal charity has slammed reality television program I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! for ‘promoting canned hunting’ by handling lion cubs as part of a challenge.

In February, host and respected Australian veterinarian Dr Chris Brown explained the horrors of trophy hunting big cats in fenced environments while cuddling a tiny white lion cub during the program.

But, according to the Campaign Against Canned Hunting, he unwittingly ‘endorsed’ hunting as after cubs are touched by humans they can never be returned to the wild, with many sold to canned hunts.

Contestant Dean Geyer had nominated the charity to receive his prize money if he had of been the last person standing in the jungle, but the organisation withdrew from the program claiming the stars were ‘undermining their work,’ 7News reported.

‘By handling cubs, this program and Dr Brown are endorsing the cycle of exploitation these animals face, and undermining our work,’ a statement from the Campaign Against Canned Hunting to Network Ten read.

The network responded by saying the crew followed every procedure put in place by authorities and respected Dr Chris’ judgement. The cub was reportedly from a breeding farm and is being raised to be tame.

But other animal charities also weighed in, claiming the show was promoting the negative practice.

‘They are engaging in handling predators that should never be handled,’ Donalea Parman from Animal Justice Party AJP Victoria said.

‘These animals are wild at heart predators and should never be handled.’

Part of the episode included Australia’s Funniest Home Videos star Jo Beth Taylor, 44, being wheeled waist deep into a box while strapped to a gurney.

The white lion cub was the last animal to be placed in the box and Ms Taylor happily rubbed its belly with her feet before petting it after completing the challenge.

In a separate episode, cricket legend Shane Warne snuggled up with a tiny leopard cub and the Animal Justice Party AJP Victoria slammed the move as ‘commercial exploitation’ on their Facebook page.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt also weighed in on the issue, saying: ‘butchering lions for fun and profit is not acceptable.’

Canned hunting is essentially trophy hunting where the animals are confined to a fenced in area to increase the likelihood the hunter will be successful.

It is a fast-growing business in South Africa, with upwards of 7,000 animals in captive breeding and 1,500 lions shot each year.