Protest held outside 'cruelty row' circus in Knutsford

Protesters are calling for a ban on animals in all circuses

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A demo has been held outside a circus after one of its workers was filmed beating an elephant with a pitchfork.

Animal rights campaigners gathered on The Heath in Knutsford, Cheshire, on the second night of the Bobby Roberts Super Circus show.

Animal Defenders International released footage of the attack on 57-year-old Asian elephant, Anne, in a barn in Northamptonshire earlier in the year.

The elephant will now be rehomed at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.

The circus said it was shocked by the footage.

Moira Roberts, 72, who runs the circus with her 68-year-old husband Bobby and their family, said people who want a ban on all animals in circuses have their own agenda.

Wild animals in circuses

Circus animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It states animals must be protected from pain, injury and suffering and all their welfare needs must be met.

Some councils have banned animal circuses on their land.

The government is soon to announce its policy on the use of wild animals in circuses.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has led a consultation with the public, animal welfare groups and the circus industry.

Last year more than 90% of the 10,576 respondents told the consultation they wanted a total ban on circus wild animals.

Circus groups said separately that inspections had verified good welfare conditions.

Labour has criticised the length of time it has taken for the new policy. But Defra said different views and "a lot of implications", including legal ones, had to be taken into account.

She said: "It's like losing one of your children. The reason she's going to Longleat is that we're going to be allowed to be with her, to see her and to spend time with her.

"We feel that the animals are perfectly happy. Anne couldn't have survived if she hadn't been well looked after."

Anne has been in the family-run circus for more than 50 years and no longer appears in public.

The circus said the man seen in the footage, filmed at the circus' winter quarters, would have been sacked had he not disappeared.

The Roberts family believe he may have returned home to Eastern Europe.

Protesters are calling for a ban on the use of all animals in circus acts.

One of those protesting in Knutsford said: "It is fantastic for Anne, obviously, to get out of the circus, but it's not just the elephant it's the other animals as well."

A joint investigation is being carried out by Northamptonshire Police and the RSPCA.

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