Big cat circus trainer Thomas Chipperfield has been refused a licence to perform in England by Defra. Revealed in April 2018, the decision was upheld by North Staffordshire Magistrates Court following an appeal.
For the last 5 years, since Chipperfield returned to the UK to perform with Peter Jolly’s circus, ADI has repeatedly exposed the miserable lives of his two lions and now one tiger. Prior to that, the Chipperfield family had presented a big cat act with Duffy’s Circus in Ireland, where wild animals in circuses are now banned. The return of big cats to the UK in 2013 was a blow for the animals; despite a commitment to end the use of wild animals in circuses, made the previous year, this new act was permitted.
In 2014 ADI revealed the big cats’ dismal lives when the circus season comes to an end. Trucked up to North East Scotland, on a gruelling 24 hour journey, the lions and tigers spent the bitter winter months on show to the public. Their home the truck they travelled in, sited in a muddy field, exposed to the elements
Chipperfield embarked on a tour of Wales with his act ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ in 2015 under the guise of education. The tour sparked a public outcry and political opposition, the Welsh government since announcing its “strong support” for a ban.
At the end of the season, the circus returned to England, and a site situated next to a horse abattoir and sandwiched between two busy main roads, with incessant traffic noise. By now the UK Government Bill to ban wild animals in circuses should have been implemented; instead the miserable lives of Chipperfield’s big cats continued.
During our 2016 observations the animals were confined for the majority of the time to their cages, with restricted daily access to an outdoor exercise area. On one of the days, the lions were not let out at all. As our footage shows, the animals were seen displaying abnormal behaviour, indicating that they are not coping with their environment.
Responses to our Freedom of Information requests revealed a number of issues during 2015 and 2016 including that: animals had little or no access to the outdoor enclosure, there were ongoing problems reading the animals’ microchips, and that multiple administrative failures were found, including required information on breeding, dietary requirements and preventative medicine in the animal care plans.
In 2017, one of the tigers, Nadia, died; there were ongoing issues with conditions for the cats, including inadequate housing and water provisions; and the conduct of Chipperfield, who continually failed to respond to requirements to improve conditions for the animals, was a concern.
Chipperfield is a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty, along with her husband Roger Cawley and elephant keeper (and government zoo inspector) Steve Gills in 1998/9 after an investigation by ADI. The expose shook the industry to its core and just five years later the number of circuses with wild animals had fallen from 20 to just 4.
The announcement in February 2018 that the UK Government would ban wild animal acts in England by January 2020 follows a decade of promises and more than 20 years of investigations and campaigning by ADI.
Until the legislation is in place, our work is not done.