A circus act featuring live fish regurgitation has been banned in Australia for breaching animal cruelty laws.

The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Industry and Investment has shut down the act by the Great Moscow Circus, which is performing in Sydney, after receiving complaints from the public.

Officials said the fish-swallowing act, in which a woman swallows then regurgitates several live fish, was breach of the Animals Protection Act.

The decision was welcomed by animal rights campaigners.

“Scientific research shows fish are capable of suffering and are therefore protected under the NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act,” Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said in a statement.

“Far from educational, this was an inhumane and foolish act which reflected badly on the Moscow Circus.”

Greg Hall, general manager of the Great Moscow Circus, defended the fish swallowing act.

“The act has been only going for four or five weeks and we haven’t had any complaints until today,” Hall told Reuters.

“The other fish are now living in showbiz retirement, off site!”