Secret cameras have filmed lions, tigers and elephants being beaten, starved and confined in tiny cages at circuses across Britain. The recordings, taken at five circuses over an 18 month period, reveal more than 400 hours of abuse against circus animals. At the Mary Chipperfield Circus, three elephants were kept inside a barn for three months. Tembo, a 12-year-old African elephant, had a tent pole broken over him and another elephant, Opel, was filmed screaming as she was beaten to the ground. Trudy, a baby chimpanzee was kicked, hit and beaten across the face with a riding crop when she would not return to her cage. At the Circus Harlequin, tigers and lions were hit with iron bars and jabbed in the mouth until they bled.
The cameras were hidden by the charity Animal Defenders who called yesterday for a ban on performing animals. They want circuses to be brought under the Zoo Licensing Act to make it easier to prosecute abusers.
Jan Creamer, director of Animal Defenders, said: "In more than 20 years of studying the use of animals and campaigning for animal protection, this is the most appalling abuse I have ever seen."
Elton John, who is supporting the campaign to ban animals from circuses, said: "The animal circus is a relic of a bygone era and has no place as a form of modern entertainment."