A TRADITIONAL big top circus rolls into Timperley next week with an animal welfare group calling for residents to boycott its performances.

Circus Mondao will be at the Bowdon RUFC grounds, on Clay Lane, from Wednesday until June 24.

The family circus first started touring last year and has already visited Wilmslow, Stockport and Macclesfield. It features clowns, acrobats and hula-hoop artists from Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and England.

But it's the circus's animal performers - such as two 20-year-old zebras, called Sinbad and Zebedee and Samantha the educated mule' - that are attracting all the attention.

The circus says: "The show is designed so that our pets can show you how clever they are. We have a large number of pets ranging from horses to ponies, goats to dogs and our very special zebras."

National animal rights group, the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS), takes a very different view.

Campaigns manager Craig Redmond explained: "There are many excellent circuses that use only human skills and we would encourage the public to support these instead.

"In the 21st century there can be no excuse for continuing to allow the treatment of animals in this way. Circus Mondao is one of just eight circuses still to use animals."

He added: "The Animal Welfare Act, which came into force on April 6, will ban the use of some animals in circuses from 2008.

"A travelling circus, by its very nature, is totally incapable of meeting all the needs of animals. CAPS is urging the Government to end the use of all animals, not just wild animals, from circuses."

Circus Mondao spokeswoman Petra Jackson said: "When we move from town to town our main concern is for our animals and the conditions in which they travel.

"They are the last to be loaded and the first to be unloaded at the next site. The average distance travelled is only between 20 and 50 miles.

"Their stables take priority and are erected immediately upon arrival, which takes around one hour. They are given water and have hay nets and new beds to roll around in."

Petra, who is the circus's ring mistress, added: "Our animals are our main concern - they are part of our family.

"We're not sure yet how the new animal welfare bill will affect us but to have these people accuse us of animal neglect really does upset us."

For further information visit www.circusmondao.co.uk Should there be a place for animals doing tricks in a 21st Century circus? Or is it wrong to make domestic and wild animals perform in the ring? Post your comments online at www.messengernewspapers.co.uk