A CONTROVERSIAL circus with performing wild animals returns to the borough next week.

The Great British Circus will be putting on a show featuring lions, tigers, horses, reindeer, zebra, camels and elephants in Barkingside from Tuesday.

But last year members of the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) organised a demonstration outside the event, by Forest Road, in protest against animals being kept in confinement.

Wanstead and Woodford Friends of the Earth campaigner Ann Williams, of Gordon Road, Wanstead, said: "It's absolutely disgusting and certainly should be stopped. It's outrageous that they're allowed in town and I think the council should ban it.

"They claim it's educational but I think that's just rubbish and there are plenty of better ways to teach children about animals than to make them do tricks.

"There's tremendous cruelty in the training of these animals and quite often these are endangered species too."

Circus director Martin Lacey, who has worked with wild animals for over 40 years, has always insisted his animals receive the best possible care and attention.

He said: “Our African elephant is called Sonja and her mother was shot in an elephant cull and was sold by the game park to raise capital for the running of the park.

“Together with the two Asian elephants, Delhi and Vana Mana, they are great ambassadors for the species, entertaining and educating the public within the care and security of the circus to protect them.

“With the publication of the Government’s Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses report we have conclusive evidence to support our case and can now start to plan for the future.”

A Redbridge Council spokeswoman said: "Redbridge Council has to make sure the circus activities are lawful and all the people in charge of the animals treat them humanely and provide for their basic needs.

"The council, working in partnership with the Met Police and London Fire Service, has arranged to inspect the site for the Circus on May 19. "All safety certificates will be thoroughly inspected and audited and during the visit and licensing, fire and health and safety, as well as animal welfare matters will be checked and audited.

"We have had no adverse reports or breaches of legislation for when the Circus was at this location at various times during 2008."