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British circuses cruel to animals, infiltrators say

Circus animals are routinely beaten, whip-ped and clubbed by trainers, according to a report by animal rights advocates that calls for a ban on the use of animals in traveling shows.

In an 18-month undercover investigation by the London-based Animal Defenders, field officers infiltrated 10 British circuses by getting jobs as grooms.The authors of the report say in the best of conditions, circuses cannot properly care for the animals. In the worst, they say, circus animals in Britain should be brought under laws regulating standards of animal welfare in zoos and safari parks as they are in the United States.

The report, which will be presented Wednesday to members of Parliament, examined 23 circuses and drew on 400 hours of videotape that included scenes of beatings and long confinements.

A spokesman for the Chipperfield circus family, one of Britain's largest circus organizations and one of the circuses infiltrated, responded that all its animals are seen regularly by veterinarians.

The Animal Defenders' investigation could have far-reaching international effects, said Richard Farinato, director of captive wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States.