SHOCKING footage of circus elephants being abused has been captured on an undercover video.

The Great British Circus, is currently running in Southend Road, Rochford, and its next stop is Colchester.

While in Leicestershire, staff were secretly filmed by the Animal Defenders International group.

Footage shows workers hitting the circus’s three elephants with a large metal hook and they can be seen crying out in pain.

The Animal Defenders Group has claimed the video shows a “staggeringly high level of casual abuse”.

Chief executive of the group, Jan Creamer, said: “This is not about one bad apple. This is about a culture of violence and confinement. In the name of entertainment these elephants are beaten, jabbed with hooks, chained up for hours every day, and pushed into a metal box each week where they remain for hours on end while the circus moves to another site.

“The circus has admitted using negative reinforcement, which shows that violence towards animals is a part of the life of a circus. This is simply unacceptable and it is the fault of the Government who have failed to fulfil their commitment to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, ignoring the evidence and the recommendations of all major animal welfare groups.

“It is time for the Government to act decisively and end this suffering once and for all.”

The circus has been in Rochford since Tuesday, August 11, and runs in the town until Wednesday, September 2. prior to that it was in Clacton, and its next stop is Stanway.

The abuse footage was taken over a five-day period while the circus was at a site in Leicestershire, and the campaigners have been monitoring the circus since May. Circus bosses now say one worker has been sacked because of the abuse.

The video, shows the animals chained up, having their ears pulled and being hit with large metal hooks.

Ms Creamer added: “This latest investigation shows how animals like elephants suffer in the travelling circus. Given the circumstances of constant travel, temporary accommodation and small spaces, the use of these animals in circuses cannot be justified.

“The public wants to see a ban, Parliament wants a ban, animal protection groups want a ban. Surely, it is time for the Government to take action to stop this suffering right now.”

The Department for the Environment said work was under way on whether the Government should regulate the use of wild animals in circuse. The report is due to be finished later this year.

We won’t tolerate that sort of behaviour

THE Great British Circus has defended its treatment of wild animals, after a covert video revealed elephants being beaten.

Chris Barltrop, spokesman for the circus, said: “I have seen about 30 seconds of the footage and we were able to identify when it took place, which was at the beginning of May.

“I’m not attempting to defend him hitting the elephant. That man was a groom, not a trainer and the minute we saw him behaving like that he was sacked on the spot. The circus will not tolerate that sort of behaviour with animals in their show. I can only comment on the bit I have seen.

“The people that are coming have seen how the animals are kept and they all say it’s been lovely to see such beautifully-kept animals.

“I’d like to point out as well, this is an isolated incident and we have taken action to stop it happening again. The way the trainer treats the animals is gently to get their affection because that’s what works with them.”

He confirmed the elephants were kept chained overnight, but were free to roam at other times.

He said: “They are chained for about eight hours overnight which is not doing them any harm because they are resting.

“We have a grazing area and a paddock which they are kept in with an electric fence and there’s things for them to do in that area.

“When they travel and get to the new site they are in the transporter while we set up their accommodation and they are given food and drink.

“We are careful to keep travelling time short. The average is about three hours. The three elephants are in together so they can keep each other company and reassure one another.

“If you ask the RSPCA how to transport an animal, they say not to give them too much space so they can’t move around too much because that’s more secure for them.”