A leading animal protection organisation has called on residents to “vote with their feet” and boycott Zippos Circus when it comes to Mitcham next month.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has made the passionate plea because it claims the animals are forced to travel round the country all year round and live in unsuitable and cruel conditions.

Zippos Circus is due to pitch up on Figge’s Marsh at the beginning of May, but Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, believes circus animals, including horses, birds and domestic animals, endure unnecessary suffering and occasionally violence as part of their training.

She said: "Animals with travelling circuses are on the road for almost the entire year. That means they have to endure constant transportation and live in rudimentary, temporary accommodation.

“Worse are the horrific abuses during training that ADI has exposed behind the scenes in circuses, not just in the UK, but all over the world.

“We urge people to visit circuses with human-only acts – those acts have a choice.”

More than 20 countries around the world have now prohibited either all animals in circuses or wild animals.

The Government has promised to introduce draft legislation to ban wild animals in circuses, but no timetable has been given for when the ban will take effect.

Any new legislation, according to ADI, will also not prevent domestic animals from being part of a circus.

Martin Burton, founder and director of Zippos Circus, has disputed ADI’s claims saying their animals were “well kept and gently treated”.

He said: “Everyone visiting Zippos sees how well-kept and gently treated our animals are, and that their stabling is purpose-built.

“Transportation of the circus horses is carefully managed to ensure journey times are kept to a minimum.

“Last year, a chief inspector of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals added to that approval by stating on national TV he wished all animals were as well looked after as ours.”

Zippos also cast aspersions against ADI by labelling it an animal rights organisation that sought to ban all animal ownership, even pets.

ADI strenuously denied the allegation, saying it was an animal protection organisation that did not oppose the domestic ownership of animals.