Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Protest over circus elephant show

The protesters
The protesters talked to people as they arrived for the show

Animal rights campaigners have protested outside a circus that uses elephants in its show.

The elephant act at the Great British Circus is the first in the UK for more than 10 years. A spokesman said the animals had "the best possible care".

The circus performed for the last time at Scunthorpe United's football ground in North Lincolnshire before moving on to Louth on Wednesday.

Protesters from across the north of England protested at the ground.

They held banners, handed out leaflets and talked to people as they arrived for the performance.

Mother 'shot'

Protester Jessica Groling, 21, said: "Circus animals are kept in confinement in surroundings that are entirely unsuitable, for their entire lives.

"Elephants may travel up to 14 miles a day in the wild.

"They are highly sociable animals that will suffer mentally and physically when held in captivity."

The circus was also criticised by the RSPCA when it performed in Newark, Nottinghamshire, last month.

The animal charity called for a ban on wild animals in circuses and urged potential audiences to think of "ethical issues involved".

The elephants at Newark
Elephants last performed in a UK circus 10 years ago

According to the Great British Circus website, director Martin Lacey "always insists his animals receive the best possible care and attention".

On the website, Mr Lacey said: "Our African elephant is called Sonja and her mother was shot in an elephant cull.

"Together with the two Asian elephants, Delhi and Vana Mana, they are great ambassadors for the species, entertaining and educating the public within the care and security of the circus to protect them."

Chris Barltrop, from the Great British Circus, said: "The trainer just deals with them by word of voice, he's not pushing them around with sticks or whips or anything else.

"He just says 'do this' and they follow him and do it. They follow him around devotedly like some sort of dog... [it is the] same sort of relationship.

"They have lots of activity, they have lots to think about, they're in constant contact with one another, with people they have the best of care."

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