Councillors have rejected a proposed public consultation which could have seen a long-running circus banned from performing one of its famed acts on council land.

Green members of the committee were accused of waging a campaign against the award-winning Zippos Circus which has been visiting Brighton and Hove for more than a decade.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee was asked to consider a proposal to remove an exemption from the council’s animal welfare charter which currently excludes equestrian acts from a ban on circuses on council land where caged or performing animals are used.

The exemption currently allows Zippos to pitch up at Hove Lawns every summer including this year when it plans to host daily shows from August 14 to September 25.

The circus is inspected every year by the council’s animal welfare team and found to have “high standards of animal welfare”.

In a heated debate on the issue, Labour councillor Alan Robbins, himself a committed vegetarian, said that the council could not pass judgement on Zippos when the council owned 18 per cent of Brighton Racecourse and when two Green committee members, Lizzie Deane and Pete West, were both trustees of the horseracing venue.

He said: “I am not looking to ban racing at Brighton, far from it.

“But we can’t take any moral high ground to decide whether Zippos Circus can have five horses perform in a circuit.”

Fellow Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said that Zippos had brought joy to thousands of spectators over the past 15 years.

Green councillor Ruth Buckley said she believed that animals did suffer from stress during performances and that a ban on horses at circuses could be just the beginning of other animal welfare proposals.

Conservative councillor Graham Cox said that the proposal was evidence of speciesism beliefs among some Green councillors who opposed supremacy of humans over other animals.

He added: “It will ultimately lead to bans on children having pets.

“It is completely inexplicable and inexcusable for the council to ban Zippos and run a racecourse.”