AN animal rights group says Wycombe District Council has gone “backward in history” after voting to lift the ban on performing animal circuses.

Council officers say new legislation means the welfare of animals such as ponies and dogs can be protected and the ban, in place since 1992, should go.

Wycombe District's council committee decided in favour of the policy change at a meeting last night.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of Animal Defenders International, said: “It is extraordinary that, while worldwide awareness of animal suffering in circuses has never been greater and an increasing number of countries like Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia are seriously considering bans on animals in circuses, an English council would go backward in history.

“80 per cent of the British public finds animals in circuses unacceptable, so it is a disgrace that councillors have voted to overturn this long-standing ban.”

The organisation says animal welfare is compromised by travelling circuses which set up in temporary locations. It says some animals can be left suffering physical and psychological abuse.

In a statement, ADI said circus animals are “not currently given any protection under the Animal Welfare Act as circus regulations have not yet been written. Any council that acts to allow animal circuses is getting ahead of the law.”

Wycombe District Council's move has also been opposed by the RSPCA.

The change in policy after last night's vote will need to be adopted by the council’s cabinet and full council.

To see last night's story, click on the related link to the right.