Police called to 'violent' clashes between animal rights activists and circus staff at Derbyshire protest
A furious row erupted after animal rights activists descended for a protest at a circus in Derbyshire.
The protest, consisting of around 24 locals and members of several animal rights groups, broke out during a break between performances at Peter Jolly's Circus on the evening of Saturday, September 14.
There is conflicting information on both sides of the debate.
Activists say they conducted an 'investigation' around the big top, in Tibshelf, and were 'concerned for the welfare' of several animals they discovered.
These included 'zebras, a reindeer and ostriches' which they claim were being 'kept in horrible conditions'.
They also allege that a protestor was assaulted while taking photos on a public footpath that runs through the middle of site where the circus was pitched.
But a spokesperson for Peter Jolly's hit back, stating: "With regards to the claims that the activists made about our animals, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can confirm all the animals that we have are licenced by the Secretary of State.
"They are inspected three times a year by DEFRA vets- one of these inspections are unannounced.
"All the reports on the inspections can be found on the DEFRA website. DEFRA will confirm that we do not have any ostriches in our circus."
Peter Jolly's also claim that campaigners assaulted a number of circus personnel, attempted to set animals loose from their enclosures using bolt cutters and later set fire to advertising boards at the site, putting circus staff and their children sleeping in caravans nearby in danger.
A spokesperson for Derbyshire Police said: "Officers were called to the Peter Jolly circus to reports of a disturbance.
"At the scene were a number of protestors and circus staff. There has been an alleged assault on one of the protestors and enquiries are ongoing into this and any other offences that may have been committed.
"Officers were also called to reports of a fire at a field off High Street, Tibshelf, close to the Peter Jolly Circus. The fires had been quickly extinguished, nobody was hurt and enquiries are ongoing."
One campaigner, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Derbyshire Times claiming he was attacked while removing two circus posters on Tibshelf High Street on September 4, as they prevented a phonebox door from being opened.
"I was punched, kicked and had my phone smashed to the floor," he said.
"Jolly's are running a smoke-screen distraction saying that the protesters were all armed with bolt cutters to release the animals and caused damage trying to set fire to circus property. None of which is true."
But the Peter Jolly's spokesperson dismissed these claims as 'completely untrue'.
Derbyshire Police said: "We received reports of the alleged assault of a 47-year-old man in Tibshelf High Street on September 4 at around 2.40pm.
"The victim told officers that he had been punched a number of times to the face. The man did not require hospital treatment and enquiries are ongoing."
The circus has now moved to Kilburn near Belper as part of its tour, where staff claim animal right campaigners have been posting leaflets to properties stating their shows have been cancelled.
"Our performances are not cancelled in Kilburn as the animals rights activists claim," reads a post on the Peter Jolly's Facebook page.
They added that police were investigation after circus personnel were 'assaulted' on arrival to the Kilburn venue.
Peter Jolly's Circus is one of two circuses licensed to perform in England with wild animals.