A CIRCUS has put up a robust defence against claims it is cruel to animals.

Circus Mondao, which has horses, zebras, camels and pygmy goats, opened in Silsden on Wednesday.

Its PR manager strongly denies claims from a national campaign group that circus animals are badly treated.

Petra Jackson, who is also ringmistress for the Lincolnshire-based circus, said it had nothing to hide and invited people to look for themselves.

Miss Jackson said: "A lot of these animal rights people aren't animal people. They say it's not natural for horses to be transported around but a lot of horses spend a great deal of time in a horse box."

She said their horses and ponies were doing what came naturally and that it was no worse than dressage.

"What our horses do is very basic - we call it liberty routine. It's like dressage without a rider," she said.

"Some stand on their hind legs, but it's a natural movement done by stallions in the wild.

"These animal rights people have this perception that when our animals aren't performing they're kept in a box, but if we didn't keep them right they wouldn't perform for us."

The show, on the old gala site on Keighley Road, describes itself as a small, traditional family circus. It includes clowns, magic and acrobats.

Miss Jackson, who has worked for circuses for 16 years, said that people had contacted her after last year's performances in Kelbrook.

"So many people said they liked to see the animals. People phoned us to ask when we would be back," she said.

"Anyone is welcome to come at any time and have a look."

But the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS), a national organisation that campaigns for a ban on all animals in circuses, is calling on people to boycott the event.

Campaigns manager Craig Redmond said: "CAPS is not opposed to circuses, only to the use of animals. We would encourage people to avoid those circuses that still use animals and visit one of the many excellent circuses that rely on human skills."

Shows take place today at 5pm and 7.30pm, tomorrow at 2pm and 5pm and Sunday at 2pm.