POLICE were called when animal rights protesters clashed with circus staff.

About nine protesters gathered outside Peter Jolly’s Circus in Evesham on Wednesday.

The circus, which has been touring for almost 40 years, was beginning a six-night run in Knowle Hill. Acts include camels, zebras, llamas, birds, dogs, cats and a bull, as well as clowns, trapeze artists and fire jugglers.

Owner Peter Jolly said the protesters had put up a large banner on the main road saying: Circus Cancelled – Sorry and were abusive to staff and customers.

“One of my customers actually phoned the police himself,” he said. “I don’t call shouting abuse at young kids peaceful protest.”

The protesters insist they were peaceful and felt intimidated by some members of circus staff. Lynn Sawyer, aged 42, of Evesham, said: “The circus people came out and confronted us. I’ve been on a number of circus protests but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Fellow protester Chris Williams, 18, said: “It was actually really terrifying. I’m not the biggest guy and I ended up being chased through this orchard.”