Circus Misery on Trial – The Mary Chipperfield Trial
From autumn 1997 to early 1998 ADI Field Officers worked undercover at Mary Chipperfield Promotions (MCP) in Hampshire, UK; this was the final assignment in an 18-month investigation. At the time, MCP was one of the most prestigious and successful suppliers of animals for entertainment, including films, TV, zoos and circuses.
ADI Field Officers recorded evidence of elephants, camels, and a baby chimpanzee being beaten. The chimp, Trudy, was seen being kicked, screamed at, and thrashed with a stick by the international trainer, Mary Chipperfield. The videotape shook the circus world to its foundations.
In 1998, ADI issued multiple summonses for cruelty against Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd., the MCP elephant keeper Steve Gills, Mary Chipperfield (nee Cawley), and Roger Cawley.
In late 1998, Gills was convicted on multiple counts of cruelty and jailed because of his sustained and repeated attacks on the elephants in his care.
In 1999, the trial of Mary Chipperfield and Roger Cawley began. It was expected to last a day or two but ran for over a week. At the end of it Mary Chipperfield was convicted of 13 counts of cruelty to the chimpanzee Trudy and Roger Cawley (at the time a government zoo inspector) was convicted of cruelty to a sick elephant called Flora.
As a result of the ADI exposé, Mary Chipperfield Promotions closed down its UK operations – the heart of its empire.
The Mary Chipperfield trial remains the defining legal case in circus campaigning. The investigation and the subsequent trial showed that not only did the circus industry consider violence towards animals to be acceptable, but that the law could not protect animals in the enterainment industry from a daily level of deprivation and violence that the public finds unacceptable. Although the Cawleys were convicted and received fines for the worst of the abuse, the inadequacies of the law were revealed in the bulk of the charges for which they received no punishment whatsoever. Furthermore, they received no ban from keeping or working with animals again, despite that they showed no remorse for their actions, insisting that they would do it all again.