ANIMAL rights protesters marched to a Bradford traveller's site at the centre of claims about maltreatment of dogs and horses.

Around 50 animal lovers held a peaceful protest outside the Bradford Council-owned site in Esholt on Saturday.

Three young horses were seized at the end of last month after RSPCA officers visited the site, along with police and a vet. They included a young foal which had been photographed wearing a bit and looking thin. The horses are now receiving specialist care.

The images prompted Shipley MP Philip Davies (Con) to demand the authorities took action to protect animals at the site. An RSPCA investigation is ongoing.

The crowd of protesters, mostly women, some of whom had children and dogs with them, waved home-made placards with photographs showing ill-treated animals and carrying messages such as "shame on Bradford Council" as they marched, with a police escort, from the sports club car park in the village to the site entrance.

Travellers, including children, gathered on a bank and, as police officers monitored the situation, the two sides hurled abuse and took mobile phone photographs of each other.

Protest organiser Bev Wilson, of Rawdon, addressing the crowd, said: "This treatment of animals is inhumane and barbaric and has no place in today's society. We are here to be the voice of those animals.

"We will make the people, whose job it is to protect them, listen and take action."

Mrs Wilson has petitioned the Council to take action, claiming dogs were locked in a dark outbuilding before being bred from.

She said: "These animals have to suffer in silence. That's why we are here."

Henry Brewer, representing the traveller families, denied any animals had been mistreated and said they were being monitored by the RSPCA.

He showed the Telegraph & Argus a ten-year-old coloured horse called Paddy, and two dogs, which all appeared to be in good condition.

A section of the main road into Esholt was sealed off by police to allow the protest to take place safely.

Inspector Julie Deacon, of Shipley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said there had been no arrests and she was happy with how the protest had gone. There had been meetings with residents beforehand and police had worked hard to allay any concerns the villagers had.

The protest was also monitored, on behalf of residents, by Baildon Conservative councillor Mike Pollard. He said: "My concern is that if the RSPCA thinks there is something seriously amiss here, I would have thought it was their duty to bring formal legal proceedings."

A Bradford Council spokesman said allegations of illegal dog breeding were the subject of an ongoing investigation by its environmental health team.

"We work very closely with the RSPCA, and continue to make frequent site visits to check for breaches of the law," he said.

"The RSPCA removed three horses from the site earlier this year and there are currently only eight dogs and one horse.

"Environmental Health and the RSPCA will take action if we find evidence that the law is broken."