A LEAFLET distributed in St Albans by mystery animal rights activists is full of "lies", a circus about to hit the district has insisted.

Zippo Circus will be entertaining the city with balancing acts, tight rope walkers and other stunts this month.

But its visit has been blighted by allegations of animal cruelty, which the circus claims are completely untrue.

Leaflets urging shopkeepers to remove posters advertising the circus from their windows have been handed out by animal rights campaigners to retailers in the city centre.

The campaigners claim they are members of national charity The Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) but it has denied any part in the distribution of the leaflets in St Albans.

The leaflet says the animals are "badly mistreated and routinely beaten in order to perform tricks".

But Zippo Circus insists the treatment of show animals - four horses, two miniature horses, one dog and a troop of budgerigars - is regulated by animal welfare groups.

Martin Burton, director of the circus, said: "I utterly deny that our animals are cruelly treated or beaten as alleged. Zippo is an extremely well-regarded circus. We have strict codes of conduct as far as the treatment of our animals is concerned and we are renowned for the high standard of our animals' husbandry."

Zippo has since challenged the activists to produce evidence to support their claims.

Mr Burton added: "If they have video evidence of cruelty they should submit it without delay to the police who will prosecute us if there's a case to answer. If they cannot submit the video evidence to the police we should take it there is none which I believe to be the case."