Activists have demanded a total ban on animal circuses on land owned by Castle Point Council.

They are currently seeking urgent talks with leading Castle Point councillors before the next touring circus rolls into the borough.

At the moment, circuses using horses are allowed to set up on council land - but campaigners are pressing for a wholesale prohibition. The only circuses they want to see are those using just humans.

Essex-based campaigner James Taylor last year co-ordinated demonstrations to picket visitors to the Great British Circus at Rochford, Chelmsford and elsewhere in the county.

Leaflets were handed out by protesters dressed as clowns, urging people to think twice about attending.

He said: "The problem with circuses that just use domestic animals is that they often own wild animals as well.

"We are planning to talk to Castle Point Council about its policy. Horses, dogs and cats all suffer in the conditions of the circus."

"With an all-human circus, at least people have the choice of whether they want to do it or not."

However, Castle Point Council's leisure committee chairman, Dave Blackwell said: "We allow horses because as far as we are concerned, it's no different from having a gymkhana.

"I'd be happy to meet with the campaigners if they want to come and discuss this."

Director of the Great British Circus, Martin Lacey, said: "Castle Point councillors attended our circus last year and were impressed by the high standard they saw when they came to the show.

"Last year we only had horses and there is no difference between us bringing horses and the Spanish Riding School performing at Wembley."

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Published Thursday, March 21, 2002