A circus has defended the use of animals in its shows, claiming audiences still want to see them performing.

Following widespread criticism from animal rights campaigners for incorporating horses, ponies and budgies in its acts, Zippos has again come out fighting, saying the animals are well cared for and remain a major attraction.

The circus is currently half way through its run at Brent Cross and ring master Norman Barrett said things are going “very well indeed”.

“It is a thrilling show under the big top, and in this day and age, people still enjoy the live entertainment,” he said.

“It has been proven animals that are properly looked after have a better quality of life if they have a task to do,” added Mr Barrett, who has performed in the ring for the past 60 years.

“There is nothing wrong with it, the animals are looked after and have a clean environment.

“Anyone can go to see the horses in their stables, and when people come to the show they can see the horses just metres away from them. They would notice if they weren’t healthy, and we have never had any complaints.”

Despite this, Zippos has drawn protests from campaigners opposed to their use of animals.

Around ten protestors from the Barnet branch of the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) handed out leaflets and displayed placards at Brent Cross last weekend.

Branch member Paul Bruce-Joy said: “We realise most people who turn up to go to the circus are going to go in, but we hope they will think twice about going next time.

“People can get just as much entertainment out of human circuses.”