Stop Circus Suffering

The Mary Chipperfield Trial: the sentencing

On the 9th April 1999, hundreds of campaigners arrived at Aldershot Magistrates Court to hear Mary Chipperfield and Roger Cawley finally sentenced and to learn the fate of Trudy the chimpanzee.

Mary Chipperfiled hitting camel


So weak is the legislation protecting animals that the punishment was never going to fit the crime. The couple, who have made a fortune from their animal acts, were fined a total of £8,500 with a further £12,240 in costs. Mary Chipperfield was fined £7,500 and Roger Cawley a mere £1,000. Again the case showed that anti-cruelty legislation is completely geared to ad hoc rather than institutionalised cruelty. Fines of a few thousand pounds are completely derisory to a company that has made millions from performing animals. The Cawleys were not even penalised for an amount equal to what they received for selling Flora (to Dudley Zoo), Opal, Tembo & Rosa (to Colchester Zoo) which amounted to £100,000.

Most disappointing was the fact that the magistrate did not impose a life ban on the couple from keeping animals. Despite our request to the CPS to do so, they did not ask the magistrate to cancel the couple’s Dangerous Wild Animals Act licence, nor impose a ban, or request that Mary Chipperfield’s name be removed from the Performing Animal trainer’ register. It was a bad blow that these requests were not made for the sentencing, however, Animal Defenders soon got on the case with a letter writing campaign.

Due to public pressure from Animal Defenders’ many supporters, Mary Chipperfield Promotions voluntarily relinquished ownership of chimpanzee Trudy ‘for her own good’. Trudy was therefore free to remain with her adopted family in Monkey World, Dorset. AD supporters twice save Trudy through public pressure — firstly in preventing Mary from pursuing her application for Trudy in June 1988 (when the CPS dropped the charges against Mary Chipperfield Promotions Ltd), then this second time when Mary originally made her intention to have Trudy back when she was convicted at Andover Magistrates Court.

The Chipperfield’s other animals, including Rhanee the elephant, Harry the bear and Trudy’s brother Teddy, were dispersed by the Cawleys. An export licence had been issued for the older chimps, Mickey, Mandy and Lucy to go to Cairo Zoo. The whereabouts of Jasmine the camel was unknown, but a dead camel was found in a car breaker’s yard, and reports apparently linked it to Croft Farm.

The Animal Defenders, without whom this case would never have been brought and who committed the most resources to it, have received but a fraction of our costs.

We can only wonder what the outcome might have been, had the ADs been allowed to pursue this case all the way as a private prosecution. Might we have walked from the court with a judgement saying that circuses cannot chain their elephants by two legs for 70% of the day (as they almost all do)? Even had the verdict been the same, it would (like the violence to Jasmine) have clarified how little protection these animals have.

However, any disappointments and frustrations must be set against the case’s enormous significance to the campaign to end the suffering of circus animals. People saw the brutality behind the scenes of the performing animal industry and to their horror have learned that most of what they have seen is legal. The biggest name in the circus industry now has 12 convictions to her name, but ultimately it may be those charges for which she was not convicted which will be the most significant. We will do it all again!

Reaction to the case showed that the public perception of what is cruelty falls enormously short of what is accepted and legal practice within the circus. The Chipperfield case proved conclusively that the law as it stands cannot protect circus animals from severe confinement, whipping and beating. These actions will continue as long as circuses remain legal. The law may have saved Trudy, but it failed Tembo, Rosa, Opal, Harry and Jasmine, and all the other animals that remain with the Cawleys and other circuses.

The Aftermath

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