On Thursday, 13th July, Mary (Chipperfield) and Roger Cawley called it a day and Croft Farm went on sale – asking price £1 million.
This is a huge victory for the Animal Defenders. Croft Farm was the hub of a multi-million pound business supplying animals for entertainment with two major players based there, Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd and the Chipperfield Organisation Ltd. In addition to the supply of animals for circuses was the even more lucrative supply for television, advertising, films and television programmes, including animals for Barrymore, the Generation Game and Disney’s 101 Dalmations.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Chipperfield Organisation were key players in the zoo world, providing transport and other services and procuring animals for zoos from all over the world, including the wild. In court, Roger Cawley claimed to have handled in the region of 100 elephants. Cawley has even been involved in the supply of primates to laboratories.
And then the Animal Defenders shone a spotlight into the ugly world at Croft Farm.
The farm was infiltrated by our Field Officers for several months from 1997 to 1998. The evidence of shocking abuse shook the worldwide circus industry. Along with the other AD findings from several other UK circuses, this evidence has pushed the animal circus issue on the political agenda.
The ADs had summonses brought against Mary and Roger Cawley and their elephant keeper Steve Gills. In late 1998, Gills was jailed for cruelty, for his sustained beating of the elephants. Mary and Roger were convicted in a sensational trial in January 1999. Mary for her abuse of infant chimpanzee Trudy and Roger for cruelty to a sick elephant Flora. But the battle wasn’t over. The CPS failed to present evidence of numerous charges brought by the ADs and dropped all those levelled against the company owning the animals (Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd). This meant there was no legal means to confiscate Trudy. It took another battle in media to persuade the Cawleys to hand Trudy over to a sanctuary.
However, the Cawley’s weren’t about to give up, as proved when their daughter, Suzanne, applied and was granted a Dangerous Wild Animals Act licence for Croft Farm in her name, despite thousands of letters of protests from AD supporters. Although, Suzanne’s application was reduced from 4 camels, 2 zebras, a giraffe, 4 lions, 4 tigers and a cheetah, to just the zebra and camels. At the time of the AD investigation the farm housed elephants, a bear, chimpanzees, lions, tigers, and numerous camels, horses and ponies. In addition to this, there was a constant throughput of animals involved in the Cawleys’ dealings with zoos, including lions, wallabys and giraffe.
Surveillance by our Special Investigations Department revealed a radically changed Croft Farm: Trudy’s miserable cage had been dismantled, as had the elephant pens and the tiger facilities, which had been demolished. A large, (apparently breeding), group of up to sixty alpacas were being kept in the practice ring shed, and there were more in what used to be the elephant shed. The Cawleys seemed to have found another species to exploit. But it is the end of the line for Croft Farm at least and even the alpacas have gone.
The Cawleys are known to have further interests in Europe, so we may not have heard the last of them yet, but that does not diminish the magnitude of this news.