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29 March 2011, 08:08
An animal campaign group says it hopes footage which appears to show an elephant being kicked and hit with a pitch fork will help lead to a ban on animals being used in circuses.
The secret filming was done by Animal Defenders International (ADI), which hid a camera in a barn in Polebrook in Northamptonshire, where 57-year-old Anne was being kept during the winter.
The footage shows the Asian elephant allegedly being kicked in the face and body 48 times.
Anne is the UK's last circus elephant and has been with the Bobby Roberts Super Circus for the last 55 years. The footage has prompted ADI to call for owner Bobby Roberts, who's 68, to release Anne in to its care.
Jan Creamer - ADI's chief executive - said:
"Anne's [had a] very, very sad life, where she's been with the circus for over 50 years. She looks ill, she's very timid, she's very sad and you can see how she's treated. I think there's absolutely no justification for keeping these animals in circuses."
The filming was done between January 21st and February 15th.
Ms Creamer explained why it hasn't been released sooner:
"We have 519 hours of footage and what we've been doing is carefully going through the footage and looking at it with a view to possible offences under the UK's animal welfare act."
Police and the RSPCA are conducting a joint investigation in to the incident.
The circus released a statement on Sunday which said the alleged incidents appear to be isolated and at times when Bobby Roberts was away for short periods. It says the family "share the outrage at what appears to have taken place in their absence."
It continues that, "the actions of the employee, had they been known, would not have been tolerated and had they taken place in Bobby Roberts' presence they would have led to an instant dismissal."
The statement also says that Bobby, "is deeply saddened that Anne, for whom he has deep affection, and who clearly loves [him] should have in any way suffered."
It's believed that the Romanian groom who was employed to care for Anne left the circus in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Mr Robert's 71-year-old wife, Moira, said "I presume he is on his way back to where he came from. We wish we had been given the opportunity to prosecute him and hand him over to the police."