Britain’s oldest pub will not change its name, despite a campaign from animal rights activists.

Christo Tofalli, landlord of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, has responded today to a letter sent by PETA asking it to change its name to Ye Olde Clever Cocks, in recognition of “compassion for animals”.

He said:  “This is an historic building with a remarkable story behind it, and I take the responsibility of looking after the oldest pub in the country very seriously and want to share that history with locals and with the tourists that visit from far and wide all year round.  

 “So I am not in favour of changing the name as I think that history and heritage is important to retain and protect.”

Since it was founded in the eighth century, the pub in Abbey Mill Lane has had many names, but since 1872 it has been called Ye Olde Fighting Cocks because of its history of cockfighting - a sport banned in the UK in the 1800s.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has won the “Best Pub in St Albans” award at the St Albans Food & Drink Awards in 2012 and 2013.

PETA director Mimi Bekhechi told the Review yesterday: "Changing the name would reflect today's rejection of needless violence and help celebrate chickens as the intelligent, sensitive and social animals they are.

"Today, kind people are appalled by the thought of forcing birds to fight to the death, and more people than ever are making the compassionate choice not to eat chickens, either."

The pub was originally built on these early Saxon ecclesiastical foundations near St Albans Abbey and was moved to its present site after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539.

Mr Tofalli took the pub over in April 2012. He added: “We are surrounded by the Roman ruins and the Cathedral and all of this is our nation’s history.

 “We have a responsibility to preserve the history of this building.

 “We celebrate the fact that cock fighting was banned in the 1800s, but we won’t consider changing our name.

“We are animal lovers here and are one of the few pubs left that welcomes dogs! “ Says Christo.

“And we usually support animal welfare organisations and a lot of the great work they do.”

The Review ran an online poll asking readers if they thought the name should be changed, in which 61 per cent (517 people) said no compared to 39 per cent (334 people) who said yes.

Hundreds have also taken to social media to express their outrage at the idea.

Alasdair Melville used to work at the pub having attended St Albans Boys School. The 31-year-old said: "Rather than worrying about the name of a pub, I think PETA should worry about looking after chickens at chicken farms for example. There is a better way to make a point."

Mr Melville, who lives in St Albans Road and owns estate agents Hawk & Chadwick, added: "If the pub were to change its name, where does it end?

"I do not associate the name with cock fighting, I associate with the history.

"St Albans is great place in which to work and live because its steeped in history."

Esme Rice has lived in the city for 20 years and said the pub was a landmark. She said: "I remember eating in their garden when I was young and my dad explaining about the sport and how barbaric it is but how this pub is a mark of heritage and history, not a celebration of the sport."

Another regular, Robert Oakhill, 71, of Dexter Close, said: "The thing that appals me is the total lack of appreciation of history.

"The current name informs us about the past. It enables us to contemplate the great advances that have been made.

"The new name is, to use the most appropriate critical term, 'bonkers'."

To view yesterday's poll, click here.