A ROW has broken out over one of the last remaining animal circuses which is coming to Blackburn next week.

Campaign group Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) wants the public to boycott the Bobby Roberts Circus, claiming it features an elderly, arthritic elephant as well a horses, ponies and dogs.

The 55-year-old elephant, called Anne, no longer performs tricks, but does travel with the circus to pose for photographs.

Bosses of the circus said Anne was ‘like a member of the family’ and that it was in her best interests to remain with them.

They said the circus had an ‘unblemished’ record with animals and was always open to inspection.

Circus route co-ordinator Antony Staines said: “People vote with their feet and we won’t be dictated to by a minority group of campaigners, whatever its tactics.”

He said Anne, who has been with the travelling show for more than 50 years, was like ‘a member of the family’.

Mr Staines said: “Anne retired from performing 10 years ago, but does travel with the circus because she is like a big pet.

“In the opinion of scientific studies and the circus vets, it is the best place for her.

“Elephants need to go into groups.

“To try and re-establish her in a sanctuary at this time in her life would be detrimental.

“It’s not in her best interests and it would break the family’s heart.”

But CAPS’ campaigns director Craig Redmond said: “Most circuses now feature an all-human cast, removing the need to keep animals confined for long periods, transport them around the country and use hidden training methods to make them perform in the ring.

“We would encourage people to avoid all animal circuses.”

“Anne the elephant is not retired.

“She may be too arthritic to perform typical circus tricks any more, but she is still transported across the country so people can pay to have their photo taken alongside her.

“She deserves a real retirement in a sanctuary with others of her species.”

The Bobby Roberts Circus comes to Witton Country Park, Blackburn from September 8 to 13.