A CONTROVERSIAL circus has defended itself on its return to town.
Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus is just one of a handful of operators still using animals in their acts.
But wherever its performers go, they are met by animal rights activists who protest against them.
In 2010, there was anger when a video was released that showed their elephant, Anne, who has since retired, allegedly being beaten by one of the circus grooms.
In June, circus owners Bobby and Moira Roberts will go on trial accused of causing unnecessary suffering to the elephant.
But today, as the circus arrived at Wheathall Farm in Mill Lane, Whitburn, musical clown and ringmaster David Konyot defended the spectacle.
He said: “It’s a huge debate and there are a lot of lies being told – but do our animals look like they’re being beaten up?
“There are five circuses with domestic animals in the country, and one with wild animals, and last year a million people went to see them.
“If people really believed that we hurt the animals, they wouldn’t come to the shows.
“There are circuses with animals and circuses without animals, and people know what they’re going to see.
“It’s like the thing with our elephant. People said that she was mistreated, but she was 57 years old when we retired her, and we were told by vets that she was in brilliant condition.”
Summer Roberts trains the horses that are used in the circus.
The 19-year-old said: “If the protesters saw the way we were with the animals, then they wouldn’t be saying the things they do.
“I don’t just see them in the circus ring, I’m with them all day. I feed them, clean them, look after them and give them veterinary care.
“You have to be nice to animals to train them – they won’t listen to you if you aren’t.
“If I hit them and abused them, they wouldn’t stand here with me – they wouldn’t come near me.”
The family-run circus has been in the Roberts family for generations, and many of its performers were born into the circus life.
It has everything from diablo juggling and balancing acts to aerial acrobats.
Mr Konyot, 64, who taught himself to play 14 musical instruments including the trumpet, guitar and saxophone, said: “What makes our circus brilliant is the big personalities that we’ve got.
“It’s a traditional circus and a real family show – it’s lots of fun.
“We’ve also got the best lighting and sound system in circus – it’s enough to make Take That jealous!”
His daughter, Lily, is also a musical clown in the circus.
The 13-year-old can play the saxophone and clarinet.
She said: “I love being part of the circus and I love performing to people.
“I want to be a juggler and I’m learning how to do it at the minute, but I love being a musical clown.
“Seeing people in the crowd smiling and laughing is amazing.”
* Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus is at Wheathall Farm in Mill Lane, Whitburn from tonight and runs until Sunday. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost from £6.99.
For more information or to download a discount voucher, go to www.bobby-roberts.co.uk To book tickets, call 07860 787745.