A CIRCUS coming to a site in Thornton has defended itself against claims made by a Bradford animal rights group over the welfare of its animals.

Circus Mondao will be performing in a field at Leaventhorpe Hall, Thornton Road from tomorrow until September 14. The show features eight different species of animals including horses, camels, llamas, reindeer and zebras.

But the circus' inclusion of animals has been met with criticism by a city animal rights group, which claims the animals are "kept in cramped living quarters", a view denied by circus chiefs.

Circus Mondao, who are licensed through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, tours the UK with its show, which started in 2006.

Susan Fawcett, spokesman for Bradford and Calderdale Animal Friends, said: "The use of animals in performing acts is a cruel practice by its very nature.

"Animals are kept in cramped living quarters and suffer a high level of stress as a consequence.

"Leaventhorpe Hall is highly irresponsible for allowing an animal circus to continue on their land.

"We call on the owners of Leaventhorpe Hall to refuse to host animal circuses in the future and resign this archaic practice to the history books."

Petra Jackson, ringmistress at Circus Mondao, has also hit out at a Facebook page set up by the animal group called 'Ask Leaventhorpe Stables to Cancel Circus Mondao', which features the venue's contact details.

She said: "We are licensed by the Government.

"Our animals are in tip-top condition. People in Bradford love to see the animals in the circus and we get complemented about the high standard of our animal welfare. The animals are not living in cramped conditions.

"It is live entertainment and not just about the animals. We are inspected on a regular basis, about seven times a year."

Anthony Gribbin, owner of Leaventhorpe Hall, said the circus would still go on at his site despite the criticism from Animal Friends.

He said: "The circus has been running for the last three years.

"Circus Mondao look after their animals exceptionally well. I would always make sure the animal welfare is up to standard for our property.

"I will not be bullied into not allowing the circus on my property.

"The circus will still be going on and it's not going to get cancelled. I have no issue having a circus here. It will come back next year and the year after that."

The show will also include a Ukrainian couple on the double trapeze and other aerial performers and acrobats.

Meanwhile, Circus Mondao are searching for an acrobat to replace a member of its Moroccan acrobatic tumblers group. They are looking for current members of a gymnastics club in the Bradford district of any age. Full training will be given.

For more information, call Petra Jackson on 07733 288500.