TRAUMATISED participants in back-to-nature reality television programme Eden have spoken for the first time about trying to come to terms with their experience following a year in the Scottish wilderness which producers admit became “dark and feral”.

Before it was broadcast Eden was billed as chance to create a thriving off-grid community on the private Ardnamurchan Estate in the western Highlands – but unknown to the participants it was pulled from screens last year after only four episodes when ratings fell from 1.7 million to 800,000.

The programme returned last week for five episodes over five days to tell the story of how 23 contestants became 10 as they turned on each other in a series of disturbing scenes which could have been lifted from the pages of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies.

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During last week’s episodes, the 'Valley Boys' – a tribe of self-important, middle-class white men who broke away from the main group – enjoyed sexist and homophobic bullying while ordering the systematic slaughter of almost every animal on the camp’s farm to ensure they had a meat-only diet.

Eden’s vet Rob left the show in despair as the camp floor became saturated with blood and guts, and the decapitated heads of livestock were hung from trees. His now-girlfriend Katie Tunn remained and became a target of the bullying Valley Boys who left her in floods of tears.

Participant Anton Wright said: “It’s always distressing to see someone upset, but what I saw on Katie’s face last night was heartbreaking. That was serious pain and anguish, not just being tearful or a bit weepy.”

Tunn said: “In the short programmes you think you see people’s dark sides. They haven’t shown the worst of it…It was incredibly hard watching [Eden] last night. It’s taken months for me to piece myself back together and it’s nerve-wracking to relive certain things. Rob has found it tough too but has been patient and understanding.”

Tunn, who now lives on Skye with Rob, admitted “it’s taken a long time to rebuild after Eden” and described it as “the toughest thing I’ve ever done”.

She added: “Shouting, crying, sexism, homophobia, rape jokes… Maybe reading about Donald Trump, refugees and looming nuclear war might be a bit more positive.”

Fellow participants Anton Wright and Raphael Meade were forced out of the camp by the Valley Boys and, in a scorched earth move, Wright and Meade burned down the living quarters they built before they left.

Speaking about watching Eden this week Wright said: “It’s not exaggerating to say that I felt physically sick during the programme. I found myself shaking with anger, and my partner sat on the sofa with tears in her eyes. Maybe we still feel connected to Eden in some way, but I’ve never watched a piece of television that has made me react like that, the anger and disgust were very real.

“Firstly, homophobic roleplay…. WHAT? I’m conscious that this is seven months of life condensed into two hour-long episodes, but even seven minutes of that is too much.”

Tara Zieleman, one of the first to leave the programme, said: “I saw a dark side in people come out and they were getting greedy and selfish. I was bullied. I’m quite capable of standing up to that, but I finally left because I was disappointed in the disrespectful way some people were behaving.”

Wright admitted to feeling “very raw” following the programme, adding: “Selfish and cowardly individuals ruined a social experiment that I had hoped would be an inspiration, something that we could hold up as an exemplar to people struggling for meaning and direction in their lives.”

Meade added in a series of Twitter posts: “It was a case of a poor mix making bad mortar...Do I forget, forgive those who pushed us out? I don't want to be cruel or hold any grudges. I'll leave that to karma. You reap what you sow.”

Self-styled deer hunter Glenn Moore – one of the Valley Boys – was forced off Twitter on Thursday night following a backlash when the programme aired, but claimed there was an “edit stitch up"

He has also denied accusations of bullying and sexism. "There's another side to that story," he said. "If you had had an argument with somebody and somebody had disagreed with you, depending on how softly spoken or harshly spoken you might be, some people may have perceived other opinions as bullying.

"There are different approaches. The girls would have approached it with a more soft, compassionate angle on how to proceed and go forward and sometimes the guys just wanted to get stuff done. But generally the guys' attitude was to make sure everyone was looked after."

He also claimed the show wasn’t a failure, insisting it is “exactly the same in the outside world”.

Moore added: "You've got 50 per cent who want to be in the EU, roughly half want to be out. It's the same in the US, half are for Donald Trump, half are against him."

Meanwhile, another Valley Boy, Andrew, who tweets as @titchtheplumber, sought to play down the controversy on the social media website.

“I can't remember it being that dark tbf [to be fair],” he said. “I think I've come off ok.”