The Gold Coast Council is set to review its ban on exotic animals performing in circuses after a 2009 ruling was passed with what one councillor describes as "literally no debate".

For centuries, crowds have flocked to circuses to witness dazzling performances by acrobats, magicians and exotic animals.

It is a spectacle that dates back to ancient Rome and animal welfare groups say that is where it belongs.

They say forcing lions, tigers and elephants to spend their lives in a travelling circus amounts to cruelty.

Mark Robinson operates a small family-run circus that has come to the Gold Coast. He has been in the business since he was a child.

"I actually grew up in a traditional circus, so I've grown up with lions and tigers and monkeys and baboons and camels and all sorts of things," he said.

These days, however, his companions are less exotic.

"We have Darth the performing pony, who will be working here on Australia Day. We have our disappearing ducks which will be here as well, and my daughter has a beautiful magic dove routine," Mr Robinson said.

"I do hope the ban is overturned. As far as I'm concerned a circus is not a circus without animals, specifically exotics."

It is a far cry from Siegfried and Roy, but that is all the Gold Coast City Council currently allows. In 2009, it banned circuses with exotic animals from performing on council land.

'Nonsense' ban

One of the city's longest serving councillors, Dawn Crichlow, was sitting in the chambers when former mayor Ron Clarke proposed the ban due to animal welfare concerns.

Ms Crichlow described the decision as "nonsense".

She says circus operators have done nothing wrong.

"There've been no incidents, no problems," she said.

"It got through and I was amazed. You know, there was literally no debate on it."

The president of the RSPCA in Queensland, Michael Beatty, disagrees with Ms Crichlow's position.

"We're not saying that the people who are running the circuses and involved with the animals - we're not saying in any manner, shape or form that they don't love those animals because I'm sure they do," he said.

"But in this day and age, having exotic animals travelling in wagons, travelling around the country, basically not being able to exhibit their natural behaviours, we believe that that day is gone."

Mr Beatty says community attitudes are changing and circus audiences do not want to see lions jump through hoops or elephants balancing on stools.

"We certainly don't believe that children in any manner, shape or form learn anything about those exotic animals by seeing them perform tricks," he said.

The Gold Coast City Council has decided to revisit the issue at its next full meeting on Tuesday.

But the RSPCA is determined to make sure the ban remains in place.

"We believe that if the ban is overturned, it's a step backwards and that's sad because there are scores of councils all over Australia that have this same ban in place," Mr Beatty said.

"We were delighted when the Gold Coast City Council, along with Ipswich and Cairns, all decided to institute their own bans."


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