SIGNS have been vandalised advertising the first animal circus on High Wycombe council land since the lifting of a 17-year ban.

A circus boss suspects animal rights extremists targeted the eight signs, placed on The Rye on Friday, over the weekend.

The acronym ALF was sprayed on the signs. The Animal Liberation Front is an extremist group which condones attacks on property.

Zippos Circus brings horses and budgerigars to The Rye from May 28 to June 2 for the first time since 1992.

It is the first time an animal circus has been allowed on Wycombe District Council land since the authority lifted a ban on it this year.

The move was opposed by the RSPCA and split councillors who were given a free vote on the issue (see links, below).

Zippos circus spokesman Chris Barltrop called the attack “pathetic and childish”.

He said: “It shows the mentality of the ALF, that they have no respect for other people’s opinion.

“If you disagree they will bully you to make you conform. They are nasty violent people.”

He said the circus knew there was a risk the signs would be vandalised.

Thames Valley Police said it had received no report of the attacks.

Yet he said: “One has to advertise one’s event.

“We thought somebody might come and rip them down or break the boards, we didn’t expect it to happen to this extent.”

The ALF condones breaking the law to free animals and destroying property “in order to prevent further harm done to animals and to weaken exploitation industries economically”.

The circus says animals will be housed at the front of the circus in a bid to reassure the public.

The Bucks Free Press has made attempts to contact the ALF – which uses cells to avoid detection – for comment.

District council members said in February that the 17-year-old ban for animals such as ponies and dogs could be lifted because new laws would protect animal welfare.

Council officers recommended overturning the ban and said the authority could inspect visiting circuses.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “is not aware of any viable concerns” that domestic animals should not be used in circuses, they reported.

But Animal Defenders International, which fought the move, said the mobile nature of circuses meant they “simply cannot provide animals with the facilities they need to keep them healthy, either physically or psychologically”.

There is no ban on animal circuses on private land prior to the vote, which means council parks and other open spaces can be used for animal circuses.