ANIMAL rights protesters staged a demonstration on the opening night of a circus.

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society set up the protest against the Bobby Roberts Circus, which uses animals in its show and will be in Walkden until Sunday.

Craig Redmond, the society’s campaign director, said protesters gathered at New Hill Farm in Manchester Road, Walkden, distributed leaflets and spoke to the public encouraging them to “boycott animal circuses”.

The group is especially opposed to the circus keeping Anne, an elephant, on tour, although she does not perform.

Mr Redmond said: “We oppose the use of all animals in circuses but Anne’s plight is particularly sad.

“She has been in the circus more than 50 years, being taken from Sri Lanka as a baby at about the same time our charity was founded.

“Despite what the circus claims, Anne is not retired as she is still transported every week with the show.

“We would encourage people to avoid all animal circuses.”

The campaign also won the backing of pupils of Clarendon Primary School in Great Lever.

They each wrote a letter to Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi and DEFRA Secretary of State Caroline Spelman over their concerns.

Circus ringmaster Simon Swash said: “She is well looked after and seen by a vet regularly.

“If we were just business people, she would not be with us — elephants are not cheap to keep.

“She is a family pet.

Everybody is happy that she is here.”

● Another demonstration is due to take place tomorrow.