A campaigner who helped change public attitudes towards the use of animals in circuses has died aged 87.

Marjorie Sutcliffe, of Kingsway in Hove, worked as secretary for the Captive Animals' Protection Society for more than ten years and retired in 1993.

She was instrumental in encouraging councils, including Brighton and Hove, to ban circuses which used animals from public land.

In 2004 Mrs Sutcliffe received the Queen Victoria Silver Medal from the RSPCA for her "tireless work" against poor environments for animals in zoos and exhibitions of animals in circuses.

The award is presented to people for "long and meritorious" service to the society. She was an active member of the RSPCA and worked on the society's council.

Mrs Sutcliffe's husband Jim, who died in 1991, was chairman of animal welfare group CAPS for 12 years.

Prominent victories for the couple included persuading Lord Delfont, of Blackpool Tower Circus, from using animals in the circus.

The Sutcliffes met with Lord Delfont in 1984 and, following a three-year campaign, he agreed the ban.

Animals used in the circus had been confined for six months of the year to a cellar.

The ban was seen as a massive blow to the trade in circus animals.

CAPS was founded by another Hove resident, Irene Heaton, in 1957. The organisation has since expanded its area of campaign into the exotic pet trade and captivity of animals in zoos.

Mrs Heaton died in 1987.

Since 1957 the number of animal circuses in the UK has fallen to eight. The Animal Welfare Act, which comes into force in April, will ban the use of some wild animals in circuses from next year.

CAPS director Pat Simpson, who took over from Marjorie as secretary, said: "It is sad to see the passing of Marjorie, and before her other good friends who worked so hard to end animal cruelty. Our 50th anniversary celebrations will be saddened by Marjorie's death but we are pleased that she was around to know that after her many years of hard work some animal circus acts will soon be banned.

"CAPS is determined to see an end to the use of all animals in circuses."

"She was a nice, caring person and was always committed to the work she ied.

"She carried on after her husband died. She was extremely independent and will be sadly missed."

A few weeks before her own death, Mrs Sutcliffe wrote to CAPS to congratulate it on this year's 50th anniversary.

She wrote: "Wishing CAPS every success for the future in their work towards ending the pain, suffering and moral injustice imposed by the human species on the animal kingdom."

She died after suffering a heart attack in hospital on March 20. Her funeral will take place at Downs Crematorium in Brighton on April 2.