A CIRCUS featuring performing zebras, llamas and camels has begun its five day run in Otley - but animal rights campaigners are urging people to boycott the event.

Circus Mondao, which also has clowns, acrobats and illusionists, put on its first show on a field opposite Stephen H Smith's Garden and Leisure last night.

But the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS), which claims the cruelty of transporting, training and keeping circus animals is "obvious", has called on the public to shun the attraction.

In a statement to the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer the charity said: "Circus Mondao is one of just seven circuses still to use animals, touring with zebras, horses, goats, llamas, camels and dogs.

"With so many excellent animal-free circuses now touring, the days of transporting animals from town to town is becoming a thing of the past.

"Opinion polls consistently reveal that the public overwhelmingly oppose the confinement, transportation and training methods used by animal circuses and support a ban "It's time to end the outdated practice of forcing animals to perform for our amusement, particularly when there are lots of high-quality circuses that rely entirely on human skills.

"In the 21st century there can be no excuse for continuing to allow the treatment of animals in this way."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) also opposes animals' use in circuses, on principle, describing the circus as "no place for an animal."

Circus Mondao, however, has vigorously defended its position and insists all of its animals are well cared for and happy.

Ringmistress Petra Jackson said: "We would ask people to come and look for themselves.

"We get inspected maybe twice a month and if they found anything wrong they'd close us down.

"If training animals is cruel then why is training a dog at home, or an animal for a TV show, okay but it's not okay in the circus?

"The animals love being transported because they know when they get to the next venue there will be fresh grass.

"They run up the ramp into the transporters, it's a normal part of their life.

"None of our animals have got a chain, they have stables and paddocks. Our ponies are tethered but that's only to restrict their grazing so they don't get laminitis.

"We've so many people come to our show - we've just come from Halifax where we had sell-out houses of 450 people at every show - and they come because they and their kids want to see animals."

The circus performances take place at 5pm and 7.30pm today and on Friday; at 2pm and 5pm on Saturday and at 2pm on Sunday.