Thomas Chipperfield circus licence withdrawn until animals’ living conditions improved
‘Britain’s last lion tamer’ Thomas Chipperfield has been prevented from performing in England, as revealed by previously withheld government documents released to Animal Defenders International. The big cat trainer had planned to return to England over the summer with his new show ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ but an inspection of the animals’ living conditions found them to be woefully inadequate. The show is now touring in Wales, where regulations for wild animal acts do not apply.
The inspector who carried out the pre-licensing inspection in June recommended that the licence for the show be refused, due to the insufficient size of the animals’ indoor accommodation and inadequate access to exercise and enrichment.
- To the question, “Environment: are areas a good size?” the inspector stated “NO_indoor accommodation totals 33sq. m which is just over half of guidance level of 60sqm for 5 big cats”. This is a significant breach and rated “red” in the report – the minimum indoor area outlined in the “Guidance on the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012” is 24sqm for two big cats and 12sqm for one animal. The space the lions and tigers have – in cages on the back of a vehicle known as a ‘beastwagon’ – falls well short of these minimum requirements. Lions Assegai and Tsavo have just over 14sqm between them, eldest tiger Nadia has 9.7sqm, and tigers Alta and Syas have the smallest area sharing just 9.3sqm.
- To the question “Do animals have sufficient access to exercise and enrichment” the inspector responded “NO” “daily records show that on average the cats only have access to this [outdoor area], & the tent for training, for a total of 3.5 hours.” This falls well short of the minimum 6 hours outlined in the guidance and the minimum/maximum times of 10/16 hours given by the circus in their licence application. In addition the outdoor area actually measures 33sqm, not the 50sqm stated.
- Difficulties reading the animals’ microchips, experienced by inspectors while the act was with Peter Jolly’s Circus, still appear to be an issue. The inspector reported that lion Assegai “became quite stressed. It was advised that further training is carried out so as to avoid this in future.”
- The inspector stated that “although “Nadia” very willingly sits up on her haunches at the required time, she is the oldest cat (18y.o.) & if/when she shows any signs of arthritis, this might prove painful. The suitability of this procedure should be monitored”.
Defra has advised the circus “to ensure that your indoor enclosures are adapted to ensure that the correct minimum areas are provided” and confirm “how you intend to ensure that each cat has access to the outdoor enclosure for at least 10 hours a day”. There are questions as to the space the animals had while performing at the Peter Jolly’s Circus as the circus stated that the set up “is identical to when inspected and passed by your inspectors on five previous occasions” and that the vehicle is “the same vehicle in which our animals have lived since our first inspection. However it originally housed six animals”. Defra has stated that the vehicle had been modified since it was first inspected. The matter is the subject of a formal complaint by the circus.
The circus has said that they “fully intend to meet the requirements expected” and that extending the indoor enclosure “will require time to build and we must work in order to pay for said extension, that is why we have come to Wales.” Although Thomas Chipperfield asked for the application to kept “open until we have made the necessary modifications” Defra said that it would be “unreasonable” to hold the application “indefinitely” and subsequently “discontinued” their application. The circus has stated that the modifications are likely to be completed by “in late November”.
Since ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ set up in Wales, where a wild animal circus licence is not required, it has been met with regular protests and opposition from local councillors and politicians. A Welsh government spokesperson stated recently that Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans has “made it clear that she wishes to move to a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses… We are pressing the UK government to deliver on the promise to legislate as soon as possible.”
Inaction by the government to ban wild animal acts in England has allowed Thomas Chipperfield to bring his big cat act from Ireland and keep them in terribly confined conditions. It has now been over three years since plans to ban wild animals in circuses were announced, with legislation drafted in 2013. The licensing system was introduced as a temporary stop-gap ahead of the ban.
If you agree that it’s time for the government to fulfil its long-standing promise to end these archaic acts, please take action today!
- Urge your MP to sign EDM 192 which calls for the circus ban to be swiftly passed – you can find out who your MP is and contact them here
- Sign our petition against ‘An evening with lions and tigers’ in Wales and attend local protests
- Make a donation and help us expose the suffering of animals in entertainment