A lion-tamer was savaged by two lions during a circus performance in Ukraine in a shocking rampage that was captured on camera.

Watched by circus-goers, the first lion roars and lunges at the tamer moments before another animal joins in, capturing the tamer by his arm.

Lion tamer Oleksie Pinko was then knocked to the ground. Several other circus workers joined in the fray, hosing down the lions and hitting them with metal poles.

The audience can be heard screaming in the background of the video, shot by US tourist Doug Sheperd, who was with his two children. At one point, one of the lions almost leaps out of the net surrounding the ring and into the crowd.

Watch the lion tamer being mauled here.

[View:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyCgyB4IwJo]

“Kids are screaming, and kids are only 10ft away and (my family was) probably 35ft away,” Mr Sheperd told CBS News.

“You have a handler from outside poking through the net, and then there’s one inside who almost gets eaten. But the lions are after the trainer.”

Lion tamer Pinko was taken to hospital for emergency surgery but is said to be in a stable condition.

Mr Sheperd told CBS News: “My son said. ‘I don’t want to go the circus ever again,’ and I don’t blame him.”

The ethics of using wild animals for entertainment is a hotly debated issue, with many animal rights groups claiming that the cruelty can’t be justified.