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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Animal campaigners in circus demo
Alan Knight at the big top site
Alan Knight was a leader of the protest at the Tonbridge circus site
Animal welfare groups have protested outside a travelling circus which has lions, tigers, camels and zebras.

The Great British Circus is beginning a 10-day run of shows at the Tonbridge Boot Fair site on the A21 in Kent.

"Circuses need to progress into the 21st Century and just have people as performing acts," said Alan Knight, from International Animal Rescue.

Circus owner Martin Lacey said the animals were "athletes" which were properly exercised and gently trained.

About 15 protesters were outside the big top as the audience arrived for Wednesday night's second performance.

Conserving animals

The circus has five lions and five tigers, all bred in captivity, as well as the other animal performers.

"In today's society we don't need to prove we are dominant over animals," said Mr Knight.

"We should be looking at animals in the environment and conserving animals in the wild, not bringing them in from the wild to a life of pain and torture which is what is happening when they are travelling around the country."

Mr Lacey said he personally had won awards for animal husbandry.

"Everywhere we go we are inspected by environmental health, trading standards and local animal welfare officers," he said.

"They can pull the rug from under us if they find something that is not 100%.

"I think the public should have a choice to see animal acts."

Animal rights campaigners protest at animal act circus

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