CIRCUSES often bring more to town than just a big top full of performances.
They are frequently the catalyst for debate over circus animal cruelty.
But stepping into the lion's cage - I can honestly say I've never seen animals that looked better cared for.
But the opinion that animals in the circus are mistreated and neglected is a stigma Stardust Circus ringmaster Adam St James is trying to shake.
"A lot of people have got certain views," he said.
"Please come down and see for yourself, don't just listen to what people say."
Mr St James said the focus of shows was no longer about "revving the lion up" like the circuses of old, but rather about demonstrating a relationship between the trainer and animals.
"Years gone by, the general public, their whole thing was they wanted to see the lion with the whip and the chair and all of that sort of stuff," he said.
"But attitudes have changed and rules and regulations in this country have changed for the better."
The Stardust Circus lions have outdoor exercise yards, receive two hours of playtime a day and one hour of training, and sleep in reverse-cycle air-conditioned quarters at night.
Lion trainer Matthew Ezekial said it was the perfect lifestyle for the lions.
"This is the third generation I've trained and there are 22 generations in the circus," he said.
"I think they think of me as one of themselves."
Other animal acts include monkeys, dogs and goats.
Stardust Circus will feature:
- African lions
- Liberty horses
- Miniature trick ponies
- Flying trapeze
- Acrobatic comedy
When: Today and tomorrow, at 7pm, Saturday, at 11am and 2pm, Sunday at 11am
Where: Lismore Showground
To book: stardustcircus.com.au
- Front row, ringside seats: Adult $40, children $30
- Second row, ringside: Adult $35, children $25
- Elevated chairs: Adult $30, children $20
- Gallery chairs: Adult $25, children $15