About 20 Animal Justice Party protesters dropped by Stardust Circus in Shellharbour on Sunday to demand a ban on using animals in circuses.
The protest was led by Emma Hurst, the MLC for the Animal Justice Party in NSW.
She was joined by protesters holding placards saying such things as 'no more animal abuse' and 'your hour of entertainment = their lifetime of misery - boycott animal circuses'.
"The local community is outraged that animals are still being carted all around the country in circuses and circus-style performances to do demeaning and meaningless tricks that are also humiliating tricks for just a dwindling number of spectators," Ms Hurst said.
"We know that these animals are frustrated, we know that they're bored, Wild animals belong in the wild."
The NSW Parliament recently launched an inquiry into the use of exotic animals in circuses.
Ms Hurst, who was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council in March 2019, said the inquiry had received thousands of submissions.
"A normal parliamentary inquiry receives about 100 to 150 submissions, we've received thousands of submissions which really suggests that the people of NSW want to see improvement in our laws to protect these animals," she said.
"What we'd like to see first of all is a ban on breeding of more animals to these industries.
"We know it is a dying industry. We've already got 40 councils across Australia that have banned the use of animals in circuses.
"We are seeing changes all around the world. England just banned the use of animals in circuses. Some 27 countries worldwide have actually banned it.
"We need to ban it here and then the inquiry will also look into whether there's a phase-out of the continued use of the current animals and where those animals would go.
"It is now about working out what is the most humane thing going forward for these animals who are currently in the industry."
Stardust Circus ringmaster Adam St James said the protest was "ridiculous".
"We hold all the correct licenses to have the animals that we have," he said.
"The animals here are all trained by the reward method and positive reinforcement.
"They still make claims that the animals are beaten and all this sort of stuff, which is absolute garbage.
"If they were right, we wouldn't be running a business, we'd be closed down."
But Illawarra resident and Animal Justice Party member Julie Power said only an end to wild animals in circuses would do.
"I look at the cage behind me and I see a lion in a very small enclosure completely exposed," Ms Power said.
"We don't think wild animals belong in circuses providing entertainment for people. Wild animals belong in the wild."