ANIMAL rights campaigners have demanded tourism staff stop selling tickets for a circus which is due to arrive in York next week.

Zippos Circus, which includes horses and budgies among its attractions, will set up camp for a four-day stay in the city, but organisers say they have become the target of activists who want to see it stopped.

Tourism body Visit York has confirmed campaigners claiming to be members of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) – which denies any involvement – arrived at the visitor information centre at the De Grey Rooms, where tickets for the event are being sold, asking them to stop sales and take down posters advertising Zippos.

A visit to a York charity shop by a woman who said she represented the circus, claimed it had been cancelled and removed promotional posters and flyers has now been reported to police.

Circus bossed have branded her claims “deceitful and deplorable” and described the demands for a block on ticket sales as an attack on freedom of choice, confirming its show at Rawcliffe Country Park, York, between June 4 and 7 will go ahead.

It is the second time Zippos has found itself embroiled in a York controversy – when it staged a 2007 event at Knavesmire, York Action For Animals (YAFA) protested against its use of animals.

“This is a traditional circus which includes trained horses and budgies, as well as human performers,” said a circus spokesman.

“Our high standards of animal care are subject to frequent official inspection and this sort of action interferes with the public’s free choice. However, the circus is not and will not be cancelled and all performances will take place as advertised.”

He added the circus did not include caged animals, with its budgies being kept in an aviary.

Christine Morton, general manager of the Visit York Information Service, said: “In view of the visit by the protestors, we felt it fitting to request further reassurance from the organisers about the event.

“Circuses are, by their nature, an emotive subject. However, we have no reason to suspect any ill-treatment of animals as far as we are aware. Zippos operates to standards set within the industry and we have agreed to sell tickets in good faith.”

However, a spokesman for CAPS said: “These people were definitely not from us.

“We are aware a circus is being held in York and we campaign against the use of animals in circuses, where local campaigners may organise protests.

“However, we have not heard of any protest being held in York – these may be campaigners not associated with any organisation.”

A City of York Council spokeswoman said York circuses had traditionally been held on Knavesmire, but this year’s suggested dates clashed with racing arrangements.

“We therefore offered Zippos Circus an alternative site at Rawcliffe Country Park, which is managed by the council,” she said.

“With regard to the use of animals in circuses, a new code of practice is being worked on by the Government and the circus and entertainment industry. When this guidance is issued, the council will consider its future policy on the licensing of such events.”