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Pitchfork attack circus elephant to be rehomed

A retired circus elephant at the centre of a police inquiry after footage of it being attacked emerged is to be rehomed, its owner has said.

The footage, filmed by pressure group Animal Defenders International, shows a circus worker beating and kicking the Asian elephant, called Anne.

Moira Roberts, of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, said she was shocked and angered by the footage.

The circus opens in Knutsford, Cheshire, on Wednesday.

Mrs Roberts told the BBC discussions were under way to have Anne sent to a new home before the footage, released by pressure group Animal Defenders International, was released.

'No idea'

Asked how she felt when she watched the film, she replied: "First of all disbelief. Then shock, horror, then rage.

"Please believe me - we had absolutely no idea."

The elephant has been in the family-run circus for more than 50 years and no longer appears in public.

The circus says the man seen in the footage, filmed earlier in 2011 in a barn in Polebrook, Northamptonshire, would have been sacked had he not disappeared.

Northamptonshire Police said its officers and animal protection charity RSPCA had started a joint investigation.

During the BBC's visit to the site on Tuesday, trading standards officers - reacting to complaints from the public - arrived with a vet to inspect the circus animals.

Vet David Walker said: "I'm quite happy with what I've seen today. All the horses are well cared for. Everything's clean, they are well-fed - they're in good condition.

"From a professional point of view here today I've got no issues."

'Terrible and wrong'

A number of people in the Cheshire town told the BBC they would not be attending the circus because of the reports about Anne's treatment.

Mrs Roberts, 72, who runs the circus with her 68-year-old husband Bobby, said they visited the town every year and urged people to continue their support.

"Surely every organisation suffers from an employee who has done something terrible and wrong?

"What can I say other than come along, see for yourselves? We wouldn't be coming back to Knutsford year in year out if we weren't happy with the response we get.

"We feel - probably it would please some people but not us, not our family and not a lot of people - that we are in danger of losing our business."

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