Blessed backs call to ban circus animals

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Campaigners including comedian Ricky Gervais and actor Brian Blessed have called for a ban on using wild animals in circuses.

The renewed effort came after the Government failed to ban the practice yesterday, despite public and cross-party support.

The row over wild animals in circuses was reignited after undercover footage emerged in March of a 59-year-old circus elephant called Anne being beaten.

Charity Animal Defenders International (ADI) has enlisted celebrity support in writing an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Gervais said: “Animal Defenders International’s recent footage of Anne the elephant being beaten graphically displays why the Government should ban wild animals in circuses. I am appalled that wild animals are still kept in circuses and fully support the call for a ban.”

Arthritic Anne, owned by Bobby Roberts Super Circus in Northamptonshire, is now living at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.

Long-time animal rights campaigner Blessed said: “Government needs to do the honourable thing and implement a ban as soon as possible to prevent further animal suffering. ”

Yesterday Agriculture Minister Jim Paice insisted that a new system of regulation would cause circuses to avoid using wild animals because of the expense.

He claims an outright ban would contravene European laws on the free movement of businesses.