Animal rights activists gathered outside the grounds of a circus in Laval Saturday to protest what they say is the abusive treatment of exotic animals.

The protesters stood in the rainy weather to ask people to boycott the Cirque Estival, and all animal circuses.

The training process for animals like elephants and horses is grueling, said animal rights group Massacre Animal.

"It's against their nature… it causes frustration, it causes pain, it causes anxiety," said activist Patricia Tulasne,

Protestors shouted into a megaphone outside the circus, telling parents and children that animals are whipped, beaten and tormented.

Inside, animal trainers tell a different story.

"We work on the same method as you would train your dog. You train them and if they do something good, then you give them a treat," said Louis Leonard from Cirque Estival.

Massacre Animal said the circus group was cited 11 times for violations in 2009, but the circus group said none of those violations was for abuse.

Leonard said a team of veterinarians is on call at all times, and training doesn't involved whips or electrocution.

"We have children over here sitting on a six-tonne elephant," said Leonard. "I wouldn't treat my elephant badly and trust that he wouldn't rebel."