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Last Updated: Friday February 27 2009 18:54 GMT

Jumbo row over circus elephants

Jumbo row over circus elephants

A jumbo-sized row's broken out over the return of elephants to the British circus after 10 years.

Three elephants are due to make their debut in the big top at the Great British Circus on Friday, but not everybody's happy about it.

Campaigners say it's unnatural for elephants to be kept by circuses and the RSPCA wants a total ban on the use of wild animals in circus shows.

But the Great British Circus says it's doing nothing wrong.

The Lincolnshire-based circus is one of the country's biggest. Circus bosses says their animals are happy and well looked after and they think people DO want to see them.

"The public want to see performing animals as long as they can be happy they're very well looked after," it said.

"What we're doing with this group of elephants is setting an example of how animals can be looked after in a circus context."

For the past few years, most travelling circuses in the UK have used acrobats and magicians to wow the crowds instead of performing wild animals.


The RSPCA has described the elephants' comeback to the big top as a "disgrace".

Elephants at Colchester Zoo
Head of the charity's wildlife department Dr Rob Atkinson said they didn't believe the needs of wild animals could ever be met in a circus.

"This has to be a wake-up call for the Government which pledged to ban certain species in circuses almost three years ago," he said.

"There is absolutely no similarity between the lives of wild elephants and those of these circus captives."