IT is almost unthinkable today that people could watch bears, elephants and tigers performing in a circus.

But these pictures from a travelling circus in Warrington in 1989 show this was the case not very long ago.

We have been back in our archive to dig out these images of when the circus came to Victoria Park.

In those days, the animals, and especially the elephants, could regularly be seen grazing on the grass around the big top.

Animals such as lions and tigers though were only allowed out of their cages when performing.

Warrington Guardian:

Bears were among the attractions

Regular travellers along Sankey Way can also recall the animals seen on the former Laportes sports ground, now home to David Lloyd leisure, when the circus stopped off there.

This week the circus is in Orford Park – but the Circus Funtasia team will be performing family-friendly shows under the big top until April 28.

The Government announced earlier this year that all animals could be banned from circuses by 2020.

At the moment, two circuses in the UK still travel with wild animals such as camels. reindeer and horses.

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The RSPCA is among the groups campaigning for a complete ban.

It says: “We don’t believe animals should be subjected to the conditions of circus life.

“Regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are often unavoidable realities for the animals.

“Travelling circus life is likely to have a harmful effect on animal welfare as captive animals are unable to socialise, get enough exercise or exhibit natural behaviours. Many animals develop behavioural and/or health problems as a direct result of the captive life that they are forced to lead.

“Circus animals are protected by the Animal Welfare Act. In England wild animals must be licensed but there is no law to stop circuses using certain types of animals.

“In Wales, there is no licensing requirement.

“Wild circus animals are usually captive bred but this does not mean that they are tame.

“It takes thousands of years for animals to become domesticated and the wild animals used to perform in circuses have the same needs as they would in the wild.

“These needs simply cannot be met in a travelling circus environment.”