COUNCIL bosses are being urged to ban a circus at the centre of an elephant abuse storm from coming to Blackburn this summer.

Bobby Roberts Super Circus has hit the headlines after secret footage was released by animal rights campaigners showing 57-year-old elephant Anne being kicked and struck with a metal pitchfork.

The circus visits Blackburn every year - and is due at Witton Park again in the summer.

Council bosses said they would review whether to allow the show to go ahead should anyone from the attraction be found guilty of animal cruelty charges.

But there have been calls to stop the circus coming to town whatever the outcome of an investigation by Northamptonshire police.

Yesterday it was confirmed that Anne was being given to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire to start a new life.

This week Moira Roberts from the circus apologised for the mistreatment of Anne in a barn in Polebrook, Northamptonshire.

The circus said the incidents ‘appeared to be isolated and at times when Bobby Roberts was away for short periods’.

Bosses blamed a groom employed to care for the elephant — and said he had left the circus in the early hours of Saturday morning after the footage emerged. Police are investigating the claims.

But Neil Martin, the general manager at Bleakholt animal sanctuary in Edenfield, said action needed to be taken to stop the show coming to Blackburn.

He said: “The council should revoke the circus’ licence, and the people of Blackburn should boycott it.

“The use of animals in a circus is offensive, but abusing them is disgusting.”

In 2009, campaign group Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) called on East Lancashire residents to boycott the circus because it featured elderly, arthritic elephant Anne.

Fiona Peacock, from Burnley, who is the spokesman for CAPS said: “We’d call on the people of East Lancashire to boycott the circus and to get out on the street and protest against animal cruelty.

“There’s only eight animal circuses left touring in the country. We urge people to see non-animal circuses instead.”

Sayyed Osman, director of environment, housing and neighbourhoods for Blackburn with Darwen Council, outlined their position: “The issue of cruelty to animals is something that the council takes very seriously.

“We do not host circuses who have exotic animals performing in their shows.

“If any circus organisers that use Witton Park are found guilty of animal cruelty charges we would review our agreement with them and take necessary steps in conjunction with the appropriate bodies responsible for animal welfare.”

The Bobby Roberts Super Circus began its latest tour last week and has been in Warwickshire where it has faced protests.

Mrs Roberts, 72, who runs the circus with 68-year-old husband Bobby and their family, has said they reacted with ‘shock and horror’ when they saw the footage of Anne being abused.

She said that the family knew nothing of what was going on.

In a written statement the circus said: “The film shows an employee hitting our elephant Anne with the back of a pitchfork in order to make her move to one side while her stabling was being cleaned out.

“This is not acceptable nor is it necessary.”

The circus went on to add: “Bobby Roberts has had an unblemished career as a respected animal trainer for over 50 years.

“He is deeply saddened Anne, for whom he has deep affection, and who clearly loves Bobby, should have in any way suffered.”