AN ANIMAL rights group has criticised a circus in Gwent, claiming the use of a 55-year-old elephant in the show is tantamount to animal cruelty.

But Bobby Roberts Super Circus which visits Chepstow and Cwmbran in coming weeks strongly denied the claims of animal cruelty to Anne the elephant.

Circus Ringmaster, Mike Lea, said the circus was the best place for her.

Mr Lea said: "Anne does have a slight touch of arthritis, but she and all the other animals have regular checks by veterinary officers who have assured us she is in no pain and suffers no stress. "

He added: "In fact to send her anywhere else other than the circus will cause her unnecessary stress and do her unrepairable damage."

The Captive Animals Protection Society want the public to boycott the circus. They say Anne struggles with severe arthritis and would be better off in a sanctuary.

Anne has been with the circus for 50 years and is now officially retired from performing. But the CAPS say the fact Anne travels with the circus, and is brought into the big top at the interval for photo opportunities, is cruel.

Mr Lea said Anne travelled in a large vehicle and was allowed a spacious enclosure to exercise in.

Bobby Roberts is the only UK circus that still has a travelling elephant. CAPS Campaigns Assistant, Paul Thomas, said the group wanted all circuses animal free.

The circus will be at Chepstow Racecourse until July 20 before moving to Cwmbran the following week.