Animal rights activists have urged the Assembly to ban circuses using animals in performances and for councils to ban them from public land.
Protesters from Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty (NISNTAC) recently staged demonstrations outside Courtney's Circus in Magherafelt and Fossetts in Newry and is urging others to join a series of peaceful protests throughout this month. NISNTAC said that even if circus owners cared for their animals, they were not in their natural environment, which can cause the same emotional distress that affects humans.
Spokesman Daniel Barclay added: "When people think about animal abuse, most would picture an animal being beaten, neglected or starved, but it is important to remember that cruelty can be more than this.
"It has been proven that animals in circuses are at risk of long-term physical health issues, as well as mental suffering. These risks exist even when the animals are fed, watered and loved by their owners."