Stop Circus Suffering

The Mary Chipperfield Trial: Suzanne Chipperfield

In October 1999 we learned that Suzanne Cawley (Chipperfield) had applied to Test Valley Council for a new Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA) Licence for the facility owned by her parents, Mary and Roger Cawley, at Croft Farm in Hampshire.

It was a horrific prospect that this latest application could mean business as usual for the animals at Croft Farm.

The Animal Defenders immediately launched a massive letter writing campaign through the public and members, regional groups, celebrity supporters and Members of Parliament. A huge thank you to all of you who wrote to Test Valley Council urging them not to issue a licence to Suzanne.

Our thanks also to Councillor Alan Rice, Vice-Chairman of Hampshire County Council, who wrote of the Cawley/Chipperfields “This family appear to have shown a contemptible attitude towards helpless animals – who had to endure their maltreatment in silence. Death might have been more merciful”.

The circus industry was quick to bleat that Suzanne should not be judged for her parents’ crimes.

However, she is a director of Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd along with her brother David and her parents Mary & Roger. It was the company that owned the animals. Importantly, this company was charged with cruelty following the AD investigation, but the charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Suzanne’s role as a circus performer keeps her almost constantly travelling. In 1995 she was presenting a mixed group of lions and tigers at Peter Jay’s Hippodrome Circus as well as her horse act. She then took her lions and tigers on the road with Cirque Alexis Gruss in France. That year she also appeared with Chipperfield Brothers Circus in the UK, presenting the Asian elephant, Rhanee.

In 1996, Suzanne was at another of Peter Jay’s circuses, this time the Superdrome in Blackpool. This time she was presenting two African elephants & two zebras, three tigers and two lionesses, a giraffe, horses & ponies & a ‘farmyard act’ including goats, pigs, sheep, a cow, geese & a hen. Most of the animals also went with her to tour France with Cirque Alexis Gruss. Poor Rhanee, still owned by Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd, was now touring the UK with Santus Circus.

The following year, Suzanne was at the Circus Princess Gala Competition in Sweden with the two African elephants and zebra. Later that year, Suzanne was in Spain with seven horses at Circo del Arte, where our Field Officer Terry Stocker caught up with her.

The ADs argue that with the best will in the world, it is not possible for travelling circuses to provide their animals with appropriate facilities. Instead they endure confinement & deprivation. Suzanne’s activities over the last few years can only lead one to conclude that she finds such husbandry acceptable, including that found at Croft Farm.

The ADs felt that it was inconceivable that, if a new DWAA licence was awarded to Suzanne, Mary & Roger Cawley would not play an active role in the daily management of Croft – especially given Suzanne’s work as a travelling performer.

Despite the fact that Test Valley District Council received a staggering 4,000 letters of protest from AD supporters, MPs & celebrities alike and said they had never experienced anything like it, Animal Defenders were appalled to discover that the Council went ahead & granted the DWAA licence to Suzanne after all.

This shocking decision taken by the council could mean misery for countless performing animals.

Director of the Animal Defenders, Jan Creamer said; ‘It is an appalling decision, flying in the face of public concern.

’It is an appalling decision, flying in the fact of public concern. It makes a mockery of Mary Chipperfield and Roger Cawley’s cruelty convictions & will effectively place the animals back under their control. What a terrible fate for the animals concerned. Surely now the Government will concede that urgent action is needed to protect circus & performing animals?”

Wendy Turner-Webster, presenter of Channel 4’s Pet Rescue, added: “Its unbelievable. The thought that animals at Croft Farm may again be at risk appals me. The place should be closed down for good”.

Actress Jenny Seagrove, who campaigned against the licence, said: “This has knocked me sideways. The history of this family speaks louder than any veterinary report. They shouldn’t be given another chance”.

The licence, granted without consulting elected councillors, allows Suzanne Chipperfield to keep four camels and two zebras at the farm. Councillor Anthony Hope, whose ward includes Croft Farm, said: “The council’s officers were judge and jury. Because the power to make the decision was delegated, I never had any power to influence it…They looked at every aspect of the application and, in fact, were looking for ways not to grant it in many respects but came up with nothing..It was a decision reached by our legal department. They said we could not go down any other road than leaving this to the delegated power of officers”.

Liberal Democrats councillor Alan Marsh added: “Some people are understandably unhappy…But it is difficult to act in a different way and stay within the framework of the law. Given the opportunity, I would have been very likely to vote against a licence but that was never going to happen”.

Animal Defenders lodged a formal complaint with Test Valley District Council and the Home Office.

However, in July of this year, we heard the fantastic news that Mary and Roger had finally decided to call it a day – they had put Croft Farm up for sale!

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