Activists to mount a protest at horse show

ANIMAL welfare campaigners from across Scotland are set to stage a major protest at an international horse circus in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Visitors to Spirit of the Horse at the Royal Highland Centre will be greeted by placard-waving protesters wearing horse masks.

And they will be urged to boycott circuses which include animal performers.

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Advocates for Animals and the Captive Animals' Protection Society are calling on the Scottish Executive to ban performing animals in circuses through the forthcoming Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Bill.

A cast of 30 horses from Russia, Holland, Germany, Spain and the UK star in Europe's largest equestrian touring theatre show tomorrow.

The show involves Spanish horsemen on classic Andalusian mounts, Cossack daredevil riders, Arabian stallions, equestrian ballet and friesians.

Spirit of the Horse, performing in the new 2000-seat Equestrian Touring Centre at Ingliston until August 8, was founded in 2002 and has now been seen by more than a million people.

Lynda Korimboccus, Advocates for Animals' campaigns manager, said: "It's a circus act as far as I'm concerned. By their very nature, circuses cannot provide the space and necessary requirements to meet the needs of animals.

"Horses used in circuses are often controlled by tight reins. These, along with some of the tricks they are made to perform, can place an unnatural and severe strain on their muscles. This company makes money out of forcing horses to perform degrading and unnatural tricks."

Ms Korimboccus said she was not accusing Spirit of the Horse of specific mistreatment of animals, but said that in general circus animals suffered problems in transportation, inadequate housing and training.

She claimed that "several dozen" protesters did not intend to disrupt the performance, but would just give out leaflets in a peaceful protest to educate people attending the show.

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Craig Redmond, campaigns officer for Caps, added: "We would encourage the public not to attend any circuses or other shows with performing animals such as this one. Instead, they can support one of the many varied non- animal shows.

"The Spirit of the Horse is nothing but a horse circus."

A spokesman for Spirit of the Horse said its horses were well looked after in accordance with a strict government-approved code of practice.

The audience were invited to see the horses in their stables and meet the riders at the end of the show, he said.

The spokesman added that they would not enter into discussions with "extremists".

"We don't dialogue with anyone who wants to abolish human contact with animals. We have no common ground to debate," he said.

A spokeswoman from the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they would send someone to inspect the show as they did with all animal events in Scotland.