Animal rights campaigners have demonstrated against the use of wild animals in a circus at Otley.

Peter Jolly’s Circus, one of only two in England that still uses animals like lions, tigers and zebras, arrived in Otley last week for a run of shows that ended on Sunday.

A group of placard-waving protesters, including members of animal welfare charity Born Free, voiced their concerns outside the big top – set up in fields off Pool Road – on Saturday.

Otley resident and Born Free member Lynne Coates said: “We don’t need animals in circuses these days. There are plenty of good circuses that don’t have animal acts and they’re far more popular.

“There’s just no need for it in the 21st century. It does not belong here.”

On its website, Peter Jolly’s Circus says its use of animals is regulated and checked.

It states: “This circus is licensed by the Government to use wild animals.”

Owner Peter Jolly, who has travelled with the circus for 43 years, is adamant he is doing nothing wrong.

He said: “To be quite honest, if I thought it wasn’t correct I wouldn’t do it.”

Mr Jolly also challenged anyone with concerns to see one of his shows, and the animals featured in them, before making up their minds.

Otley Town Council leader Councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) said: “While I think I’m right in saying that the town council doesn’t have a policy on this matter, I am personally opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses on a number of grounds.

“I do think modern circuses should get by without using animals. In my opinion people admire circus skills, but the use of animals in this way does seem to hark back to a bygone, unenlightened era.”

This isn’t the first time a visiting circus has sparked protests in the town. In the summer of 2008, the Captive Animals’ Protection Society called on the public to boycott performances by Circus Mondao which featured zebras and camels.

The RSPCA is campaigning against the use of wild animals in circuses as it claims they shouldn’t be subjected to “lives of forced performance, prolonged confinement and unnatural social groupings.”

In 2012, the Government announced it would introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in England which would take effect from December 1, 2015, but groups like the RSPCA fear it may backtrack and are lobbying MPs to ensure the bill becomes law.