Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

EXPOSED: The miserable life of animals at Peter Jolly’s Circus

Posted: 25 April 2016. Updated: 3 June 2016

When circuses are touring, animals are forced to live in collapsible, temporary accommodation, and welfare is inevitably compromised. A new investigation from Animal Defenders International (ADI) reveals that life is just as miserable for circus animals when they are not touring.

Peter Jolly’s Circus holes up at its Shropshire base for 4-5 months each year for a winter break. ADI made extensive observations of the winter quarters during two winter breaks using hidden cameras in March and November 2015, and again in February and March 2016.

Despite that the site has been in operation for decades and been inspected by Defra, there is little evidence that any effort has been put into providing appropriate facilities for the animals. The ADI team filmed:

  • Appalling overcrowding
  • Fighting between animals
  • A worker spitting in the face of and tormenting a camel
  • Ponies tangled in short tethers
  • Animals crammed in a run-down building for 14 hours a day
  • Some animals shut in the dilapidated building for days on end
  • On one occasion, animals tethered for up to 40 hours
  • Government regulations ignored

Watch the shocking footage below:

ADI Vice President Tim Phillips said: “Circuses are no fun for animals. Confinement and deprivation are endemic to this industry whether the circuses are touring or not. The Government’s failure to fulfil its promise to ban wild animal acts has let down both the public and the animals it said it would protect. The latest ADI evidence shows how desperately lacking in protection all circus animals are and that regulations have failed.”

During the first 16-hour observation, zebras Watusi and Zumba, Kashmir the camel, and Onkuli the ankole never left the barn - the ankole then died on tour a few months later. The UK’s temporary regulations governing the use of wild animals in circuses in England stipulate that licensed animals must have “the opportunity for physical exercise for a minimum of six hours in any 24 hour period” and that “Reasonable effort must be made to allow grazing animals an opportunity to graze on a daily basis.”

During two of the ADI visits, zebras Watsui and Sumba were confined to a tiny pen, measuring just 7.8 square metres - this is less than half the minimum 20 square metres stipulated by Defra. Camel Kashmir and ankole Onkuli shared a pen of 17.65 square metres, again falling short of the required minimum size.

ADI believes Defra’s minimum requirement of a space just 4 metres by 5 metres for a wild animal such as a zebra is inadequate – yet Jolly’s did not even provide this.

Tethered for at least 16 hours of the day, the camel and ankole were unable to turn around comfortably. Domesticated species were confined also, with two goats sharing a tiny concrete cell that measured just 2.6 square metres, and seven llamas housed in a small pen.

Tied up and unable to escape, Kashmir the camel was filmed being intimidated, taunted, and spat at by a worker.

Last month, during the most recent 13-day ADI observation, 18 equines were tethered and crowded inside the barn for approximately 15 hours every day, and on one occasion for a continuous 40-hour period. Kashmir the camel was confined to his pen for 6 days. The goats were forced to spend their entire time in a tiny pen, with their only respite being when their pen was cleaned and they were tied up in the main area of the barn for 6 hours.

Bullying at Peter Jolly’s is rife, as horses, ponies, and donkeys vie for limited space. Individuals were filmed biting and kicking one another as tempers flare and tethers become tangled. The 18 animals share a space less than 12 metres by 5.5 metres and are unable to lie down comfortably. The Defra Code of Practice for equines (a code not specific to circuses) states “as a minimum, each horse should have sufficient room to lie down, readily rise, and turn around in comfort”. The animals also do not have access to water when indoors despite the Code of Practice stating that “It is essential that all horses have continuous access to a clean supply of fresh water. When this is impractical, adequate clean water should be made available to them on a frequent and regular basis”. Horses can require anything from 20-70 litres of water daily.

Peter Jolly’s Circus is one of two circuses licensed to perform in England with wild animals. There are no such regulations for domestic species.

Despite a 2012 government commitment and a 2015 manifesto pledge to ban wild animals in circuses, little progress has been made to pass legislation. Two Private Members’ Bills using the government’s own wording, most recently introduced by Conservative MP Will Quince in February, have been unsuccessful.

With the licensing scheme failing to protect the welfare of wild animals, and with no legislation to protect domestic species, ADI is calling on the public to avoid circuses with any animal acts.

Take action to stop circus suffering!

  • Avoid circuses that have animal acts, and encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same.
  • Speak out when an animal circus comes to town – email us for leaflets and posters.
  • Ask your MP to urge the Government to bring in its promised ban, and call for measures to protect domestic species too.
  • In Wales contact your AM, in Scotland your MSP, and Ireland your MLA or your TD and urge them to call for action too.
  • Donate today and help us campaign for an end to the suffering of animals in circuses.


A venue set to host the circus pulled the plug at the beginning of June after being “mortified to hear about the conditions that the animals are being held in and the abhorrent treatment”. A huge thanks to the Wynn Family for doing the right thing for the animals and Derby Animal Rights for petitioning Hadley Farm. Just days previously, Newport Rugby Club sponsors had withdrawn their support after it hosted the controversial circus and was similarly petitioned. Our thanks to Henshalls Insurance Brokers, Stafford Land Rover and Telford Group Ltd for taking a stand against circus suffering.

© Animal Defenders International 2020