A CIRCUS in Chepstow is under fire for having performing animals, with people and a charity slamming the practice.

Circus Mondao is one of just two travelling circuses in Britain still using wild animals in its shows.

After setting up yesterday (April 7), the Big Top will be pitched at Chepstow Race Course running two shows a day except Sunday.

But as the circus counts animals including zebras, camels, reindeer, llamas and horses among its roster of acts, it is under fire from animal charities that want to see wild animals in circuses, including zebras and camels, banned.

Emma Kyne, 48, from Lower Chepstow, who was recognised for her work with animals with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said: “I don’t believe there should be any animals at all in circuses. It’s all equally cruel, from temporary living conditions to transporting them, to making them do things which are not part of their natural behaviour. I would urge people not to go to this circus.”

Rhys Williams, 18, from Bulwark, said: “One reason a lot of people don’t like circuses is it causes animals to exhibit quite a lot of stereotypical behaviours because of the way they’re kept. I suppose I would support a ban on wild animals - wild animals should be in the wild, essentially.”

The circus strenuously defended its use of animals in the show.

Ringmaster Petra Jackson said: “We are registered with the government and fully licensed to have animals. We have two unannounced inspections a year – more than zoos. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with our animals and I can assure you they are very happy. They have lived in circuses most of their lives. Our zebra Zebedee is 28 – in the wild he would have been dead by now. Our horses do dressage, like they do in the Olympics.

“People want to see a traditional circus. We love our animals and we love to share them with the public. We feel so proud the public can come and see them.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “The RSPCA have long argued that the complex needs of wild animals cannot be met in a travelling circus environment. No wild animal should have to endure the constant travel, cramped temporary cages, and noisy conditions of a circus.”

The UK Government promised to implement a ban on wild animals in circuses by December 2015 but “almost six months later, time is running out for the Westminster Government to deliver the ban”, she added.

Dr Ros Clubb, senior scientific officer with the RSPCA wildlife department, said: “Enclosures tend to be small, a quarter of the size of enclosures you would see in zoos for the same animals. We do have concerns about the methods used for training. There’s some evidence of punishment and harsh methods being used but it very much happens behind closed doors."

She said transport was known to be a stressful experience for animals and that they should be able to live in a stable environment ”without being loaded into a lorry every few days and transported to a completely new site. One day it might be a car park, the next it might be a field.”

Ceri Thomas, 22, from Magor, echoed the anxiety about animals in the ring. She said: “It’s a concern because it’s not their natural life. I’d much prefer animals to live in their natural environment and I’m sure a circus wouldn’t provide that. I certainly won’t be going.”

A spokesman for Monmouthshire County Council said: “The circus is inspected by a vet when it applies for a licence and during its tour of the country. The council would not generally inspect unless we receive complaints.”

Visit www.circusmondao.co.uk.