A CIRCUS that sacked a groom for hitting elephants with a metal hook is pushing ahead with plans to come to Colchester.

The Great British Circus faced condemnation when campaign group Animal Defenders’ International released a video of the worker abusing animals.

Protesters have threatened to demonstrate when the show rolls into town next week, but bosses have announced they will continue with performances off London Road, Stanway.

The circus will stay in Colchester from Tuesday until Sunday, September 20.

Animal rights’ protester Jane Williams, from Frinton, who has picketed the circus on past visits to Colchester, said she was organising protests on September 13 and 20.

She said: “I am expecting a good turnout following the publicity that the atrocities conducted against animals by this circus have received.”

Animal Defenders’ International has urged families not to go to the circus. Chief executive Jan Creamer said: “Making a token gesture to sack a temporary worker is not going to keep these elephants from harm.”

No one from the circus was available for further comment yesterday, but it did release a statement earlier.

Spokesman Chris Barltrop admitted the circus’s reputation had been damaged, but insisted the groom’s treatment of the elephants was an isolated breach of high standards.

He said: “The Great British Circus has come to Colchester annually for many years. Local people have come to know and respect our high standards of animal welfare.

“In May, we found out that a member of staff working with a group of elephants featured at present in performances was surreptitiously abusing the animals. He was instantly dismissed. Such behaviour is intolerable to us.”