THE return of elephants to a circus which visits Clacton has sparked fury among animal rights protesters.

The Great British Circus, which is set to come to the resort later this year, has announced two Asian elephants and one African elephant will be touring with it.

It is the first time in more than ten years that a European elephant act has been brought to the country.

Jane Williams, of Walton, who organised a protest outside the circus, in West Road, Clacton, in August, said: “I think it’s appalling elephants will be part of the circus and we will be protesting once again.

“I hope the people of Clacton don’t support the circus when it comes to the town.

“I will definitely voice my opinion in an attempt to stop them coming to Clacton.”

The RSPCA has criticised the return of elephants as “a body blow” for animal welfare in this country.

Dr Rob Atkinson, the charity’s wildlife department head, said: “Asking these majestic animals to behave in unnatural ways in the name of entertainment is a disgrace, a disgrace which is already banned in several other European countries.”

The Great British Circus bills itself as Britain’s biggest animal circus. Its acts include lions, tigers, camels, zebras, lamas, reindeer, horses and dogs.

Jeff Link, circus spokesman, accused the RSPCA of having a blanket hatred of circuses.

He said: “If we were doing anything wrong they would prosecute.

“No circus would spend £100,000 on animals and then mistreat them.

“We love our animals. The elephants are treated like princesses.”

Nigel Brown, Tendring Council’s communications manager, said it is the council’s policy not to licence a circus with performing animals on land it owns.

However, it provides a licence for a circus on land not owned by the council as long as it meets all the necessary requirements under the Licensing Act 2003.