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Jamie Cullum accused of condoning animal cruelty over performance at wild animal circus

'No animals featured and he does not condone the use of live animals as a form of entertainment' says his spokesman

Jazz star Jamie Cullum has been accused of "condoning cruelty" after appearing at the home of Europe's largest wild animal circus.

The pianist played a sold-out performance to 3,000 fans at the controversial Circus Krone in Munich in Germany last month which features dancing elephants and performing big cats.

Animal rights groups condemned the decision to play at the venue, which has hosted a number of the world's leading rock acts including the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Pink.

Circus Krone is home to 200 animals including lions, tigers, zebras, elephants, a rhino and sea lions.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of Animal Defenders International (ADI), said appearing there sent the wrong message.

"The welfare needs of tigers, lions and other wild animals can never be met in circuses where these majestic animals are confined. We are very concerned that celebrities including Jamie Cullum are apparently condoning such cruelty by performing at animal circus venues," she said.

A ban on wild animals appearing in in travelling circuses is set to come into force in Britain in 2015 following a Commons vote by MPs and a campaign by The Independent in which 30,000 people signed a petition demanding an end to the practice.

A spokesman for Jamie Cullum confirmed he had played at Circus Krone. 

He said: "He was not aware that the venue was used for live animal performances during the summer months. I can confirm that no animals featured in his performance and that he does not condone the use of live animals as a form of entertainment."

Cullum broadcast his BBC Radio 2 programme from the venue last week during which he told listeners: "I'm actually playing a in a circus tonight. When I say a circus I mean an actual circus so when I look out my window I can see lions and tigers ... Tonight I'm literally in a circus and it's a beautiful venue and looking forward to playing here tonight," he said.

Peter Höffken, campaign director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) in Germany, said the organisation had been engaged in a long running campaign to highlight its alleged concerns over Circus Krone.

"We would wish that the celebrities or agents would inform themselves before they book this venue," he said. "We hope that at some point Circus Krone will stop exhibiting animals and just concentrate on renting out its premises for singers," he added.

Markus Strobl, marketing director Circus Krone, said the animals were well treated by more than 100 staff including two vets.

"We have higher welfare standards than in a zoo. In our opinion it is good because we protect some species from dying out," he said.

Founded in 1919, Krone is the only circus in Europe to have its own permanent home. After its winter residency in Munich it goes on tour taking with it the world's largest big top as well as a 100-strong menagerie.

Among the stars is lion trainer Martin Lacey Jr from a well-known British circus family. According to the Circus Krone website: "The highly decorated tamer presents its 14 African lions wanted `wild' (sic) and presents their immense power and skill. With a loud crack of a whip, he emphasizes the danger of his `majesty' and letting it hiss highly effective and threaten."

Mr Lacey's personal website shows video of him leading a tiger as it repeatedly jumps over a lion's back and a photograph of him placing his head inside the mouth of a large male.

Mr Strobl said the circus was proud of its conservation record. For example, he said there were 82 white lions left in the world - 14 at Krone, 11 of which had been bred there. 

"There are good circuses and there were not good circuses in the past. Circus Krone is the biggest in Europe and has the highest standard of animal treatment," he added. 

The use of animals in circuses has been outlawed in a number of countries in Europe, Scandinavia and the Americas. In Austria a challenge by Circus Krone was rejected by the courts paving the way for the British Government to support the ban on travelling circuses. Krone has the backing of the German Federal government which markets it as an international tourist attraction.

Last year, in the case of an unconnected circus, its owner Bobby Roberts was convicted in a British court of behaving cruelly towards Anne, the UK's last circus elephant which was revealed to have been kept constantly chained. An undercover film shot by ADI showed the Asian elephant being kicked and hit with a pitchfork. Concern over the incident was one of the decisive factors in securing the ban in the Commons vote in 2011. There is no suggestion of any similar cruelty at Circus Krone.