ANIMAL welfare campaigners say they’ll protest at a circus, due to open in Clacton tomorrow.

The Great British Circus claims to have the only group of performing elephants in the UK. It also boasts lions, tigers, camels, llamas, horses and reindeer.

Local campaigners claim using animals in circuses is cruel. They say they’ll be joined by protesters from across the county in demos aimed at persuading local people not to go inside the big top, on Clacton Airfield, in West Road.

Campaigner Jane Williams, from Frinton, said: “I cannot believe in this modern day and age, animals are being exploited in such a cruel manner. Circuses using animals is archaic and no longer has a place in today’s society.”

She claimed circus animals were “condemned to a lifetime of imprisonment”, adding: “These beautiful animals are not volunteers, they are slaves.

“They spend their lives imprisoned, touring the country in beast wagons and forced to perform demeaning acts in the name of entertainment. Animal exploitation for profit is not acceptable.”

Owner and ringmaster Martin Lacey, said Government inspections confirmed the animals were in excellent physical condition and seemed relaxed in their enclosures.

Mr Lacey added: “Our African elephant is called Sonja. Her mother was shot in an elephant cull and sold by the game park.

“Together with the two Asian elephants, Delhi and Vana Mana, they are great ambassadors for the species, entertaining and educating the public.”

Mr Lacey added his circus had been voted Best Circus with Animals five years running by the Circus Friends’ Association.

The circus will be at the airfield from tomorrow until August 9.