THE director of West Midland Safari Park says he would never have supplied four white lion cubs if he had known they would have ended up performing in a Japanese circus.

Bob Lawrence said he was shocked at claims by animal rights group the Captive Animals Protection Society that the lions were now performing in the travelling Kinoshita Circus.

Eight cubs were born at the safari park, near Bewdley, and four were sent to entertainment firm Amazing Animals in Chipping Norton in 2010, which passed them on to the circus.

The safari park is now being investigated by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) which said it would take action if the claims are substantiated.

Mr Lawrence said: “The people we supplied them to [Amazing Animals] were fully licensed.

“We knew it was a collection which were used for film work, but that was the extent of it. We had no idea they would be used in a circus.

“But we are quite shocked by the claims, if they are indeed our lions.”

Amazing Animals owner Jim Clubb said nothing illegal had taken place and the Five Freedoms set out in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 regarding keeping animals had been met.

He said: “I fear this is an animal rights-inspired campaign used to generate funds for organisations that are not answerable to the charity commission, but instead have very radical agendas.”

Animal rights campaigners CAPS and Lion Aid, which revealed the information, called it a “shocking betrayal of both the animals and public”.

Liz Tyson, director of CAPS, also disputed Mr Clubb's claims, saying both organisations are regulated by and answerable to the charity commission.