ANIMAL welfare campaigners are preparing to target a controversial circus when it arrives in York next month.

Zippos Circus, which features horses and birds, including budgies, will be on Knavesmire from August 7 to 12.

York Action For Animals (YAFA) has emailed supporters, asking them to demonstrate against the event, The email read: "Please keep an eye out for posters and illegal fly postings, and ask shops to remove any adverts and tickets."

It also urged supporters to attend demonstrations, and post "anywhere and everywhere online" about the "cruel circus".

The campaigners said demonstrations were important to show the circus and City of York Council that YAFA would not tolerate animal cruelty. The council owns Knavesmire. YAFA also want to make the public aware of the alleged cruelty.

York councillor and animal welfare campaigner Paul Blanchard said: "I am appalled by the suffering of animals within the entertainment industry, and have always been opposed to the use of animals in circuses. It is horrendous that in this day and age we still exploit performing animals and call it entertainment.

"There is no fun in seeing these once proud animals in an unnatural environment. There is no joy in seeing them forced to perform whilst assailed by loud music under the glare of circus lights."

Zippos' creative director, David Hibling, said: "We were very, very keen when we first introduced horses that we did things correctly, so we drew up a code of conduct with the International League For The Protection Of Horses. They helped us form the code and have always been very happy with how our horses are treated. Zippos Circus performs on council venues every year, and I would say virtually every year we welcome an inspection from animal welfare officer and they are always happy."

A City of York Council spokesperson said: "The council's ban on performing animals currently excludes horses and dogs. However, any shows that do feature dogs and horses are subject to rigorous checks to ensure the animals are healthy and kept in good conditions.

"Those responsible for them are also expected to register with a local vet when they perform on council-owned land."

* The circus will include high-wire star Henri Ayala climbing to dizzying heights in a world record attempt.

He will walk above the roof of the huge Big Top, and then attempt to set a new Guinness World Record by balancing in a standing position on a chair on one of the guy-wires that hold the circus tent in place. Circus organisers believe this would be a unique feat.