Stop Circus Suffering

The miserable life of animals at Peter Jolly’s Circus

ADI reveals how desperately lacking in protection all circus animals are and that regulations have failed

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.
  • Urge your MP to sign EDM 192, which calls on 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 oryour 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.


  1. Kelly Tansy · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    Just disgusting that animals are so neglected and confined that they attack each other. Thank you so much Animal Defenders. Circuses are better without animals. You are doing so much to end this. I hand out your fliers because you get the job done for the animals. It’s difficult to see this footage but important to see it to save these animals.

  2. Shannon Sullivan · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    Free the animals. This is inhumane and disgraceful treatment.

  3. danielle comfort · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    I think that this is just appalling. it is mean and cruel also with slaughter houses and animal testing

  4. Elizabeth Fuller · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    This is utterly disgusting !! Not only are these animals suffering but , also , that the government is allowing it and not doing anything to intervene . The most extraordinary image of a hooded lout spitting and tormenting a dignified and understandably disorientated camel just about sums up the horrendous injustice from “humans ” to their fellow creatures . Utterly degrading and the lout should be prosecuted !!

  5. Elizabeth Fuller · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    I have never been on this site before so I think you must have made a mistake . Perhaps the comments I have just made are painful to hear .

  6. MERILYN BROWN · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    The Peter Jolly Circus has unfortunately “landed” this week directly across the road from our home. Apparently there were posters stating they were coming, but unfortunately myself and neighbours didn’t see these…..So, we are stuck for a week looking across at high sided vehicles, “big top” and several touring caravans, when we can usually look across at a field, with lovely trees in the distance, one of the reasons we bought a share in the property only last year. As an animal lover I am hating having to stare across at this “village” that appeared with no warning, and shows lovely innocent animals, wrapped up in all sorts of garb,being paraded round the ring to the deafening sound of music blaring out across the estate. For pity’s sake, consider the animals Peter Jolly & Co, this is so out of date and cruel, and hurts constantly having to stare over at your equipment and tents, knowing these innocent animals are being paraded around for money.So very,very sad

  7. Kate · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    How can anybody in their right mind think that this is acceptable?! Free the poor animals!!!

  8. gill bodell · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    absolutely disgraceful, what happened to animal welfare. They obviously have no respect for for animals, no kindness is shown here. Pitiful!!!

  9. kirsty · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    utter fucking wromg woukd they like the misery there putting.wild animals through yhey need freedom life space and water wants shutting down and sueing for neglect

  10. Evalyn · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    *animal lover

  11. Pat · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    Peter Jolly’s Circus IS NOT ‘JOLLY’ BUT HELL to these poor animals. The abuse and neglect of these beautiful creatures was painful to see. If only these innocent animals can be taken away from the pathetic conditions the have to endure. Shame on the owners! The owners and workers should JAILED and tied up standing without lying down for hours without food and water in the same they’ve treated these poor helpless animals.

  12. Nicola woodward · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    Let’s all do something about this , and report him to animal welfare , and get it stopped , bad rehomevtgeses animals to caring people .

  13. Barbara Hackett · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    So sad watching this video, why haven’t the RSPCA been called? Why is this circus still in business ? It is awful. Is there anything we can do?

  14. bob allen · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    It just needs the public to avoid these circuses and they will soon stop using animals.

  15. Tracy lannigan · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    I have never ever taken my kids to a circus they are adults now and they haven’t missed out this excuse for entertainment is barbaric and should be banned I no the jollys have to make a living and quite entitled to but we live in the 21st century I’m sure they can think up a more entertaining show without using animals for entertainment,and if enough people boycott this excuse for entertainment maybe they will rethink there tours

  16. Joanne Westwood · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    Animals should not be used and abused for financial gain and peoples entertainment…these venues need to be boycotted and shut down!.

  17. Luthfil · 25 April 2016 at 4:47a

    We have to stop the circus and free the animals by ourselves

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