Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

9,000 miles of misery

Posted: 13 January 2006


In March 2000, a Chipperfield Enterprises Ltd. Employee, Tom Rider, decided enough was enough and blew the whistle on the abuse he had witnessed in the circus. He told of the deprivation and violence to three Chipperfield elephants as they travelled from the USA and across Europe.

Rider had worked in circuses for years in the USA, first with Clyde Beatty Cole Circus and then with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, but did not become disillusioned until he encountered Chipperfield Enterprises.

Chipperfield Enterprises
Chipperfield Enterprises Ltd operates from a ‘farm’ in Oxfordshire and is run by Dicky Chipperfield (Mary’s cousin.) AD supporters are familiar with the farm, which has been infiltrated by our Special Investigations Department (SID) and the subject of several exposes. Here the lions and tigers spend most of their time in small metal containers or on beastwagons. When the Ads were working there, the site housed 18 lions and 5 tigers with at least, another 29 big cats out on tour with circuses. Conditions for the animals are miserable and there are grave safety concerns – a worker had his arm torn off by a tiger, and lions have escaped. Dicky also has a conviction for importing a lion in a cramped container.

Chipperfield has had a relationship with Ringling Brothers Circus in the USA for some time. His step son, Graham Thomas Chipperfield, has presented a group of ten Chipperfield lions and three Asian elephants, Letchmai, Mina and Camilla, over several years. In late 1997, Graham was joined by Dicky’s son, Richard Chipperfield Jr, with twelve tigers. An AD field Officer had worked with these tigers at Chipperfield’s Circus, and our SID team then trailed them to Monte Carlo, before they left for the USA.

Early in his stay with Ringling, Richard Jr. undertook a press call with his tigers. There appear to be no definitive report of events, but a tiger called Arnie, seriously mauled Richard’s head. As Richard was dragged from the ring by circus workers, another tiger attacked his leg. Graham Chipperfield later shot Arnie several times, killing him. The animal was caged at the time. Tom Rider was at the circus that day, and his understanding was that Richard had posed for the cameras, then turned to Arnie and blown in his face; as he turned back to the cameras, Arnie had responded by biting the back of his head. Richard was hospitalised for some time, both he and Graham subsequently left Ringlings.


A Journey of Misery
So it was that in November last year the Chipperfield elephants came to leave Ringlings, for Europe. They were accompanied by Tom Rider whose shocking account of the journey appeared in the Daily Mirror. The Following are extracts from those articles which he verified in interviews with the Ads.

On 18th November 1999, the elephants began a 350 mile journey from Tampa, Florida to Charleston, Carolina crammed into a metal container on the back of a lorry. They were shut in the lorry for two days and watered just once.

Once loaded on the cargo vessel in Charleston dock, they were allowed out of their container into an exercise area between the other containers. This was barely large enough for one elephant, let alone all three with containers towering up on all sides. As the boat began to move they became restless and were returned to their container. Whether it was because of the noise, the motion, environment or all of these, the elephants refused to come out of their container again during the voyage.

Also on board were 16 big cats, including three cubs, in a 53ft long beastwagon. One cub died during the journey.


On November 28th, after ten days at sea, they arrived in Algeciras in Spain. Tom said, “The elephants were in the worst state I had seen them, kicking and shoving the doors to get out. We set them loose in the container yard for 20 minutes, but put them back as they tried to break through the fence. The undersides of their bellies were shaking, twitching with stress.” In four days in Algeciras, the elephants came out twice and with reduced supplies, were living off hay.
Between 2nd and 5th of December, the animals were transported by road to Amsterdam – the elephants were watered twice. They were in Amsterdam until the 12th, but because it was damp and raining the elephants stayed in their container except for one 25 minute break.

On 12th December it was on the road again to France, arriving on the 14th. Tom records that this was “The first time I saw Dicky use a bull hook and an electric goad to control the elephants in rehearsals. Dicky told Martin (Lacey junior) to give them a command. If they didn’t respond, to give it to them a little heavier in a deeper voice. If they didn’t respond, he would let them have it with the hook. “Get into ‘em” he’d say.” (The Ads have video of Dicky giving similar instruction with regard to big cats).

In France it snowed, so the elephants remained in the truck. Leaving France, they drove through the night to arrive at Circus Barelli in Dresden the following night. The elephants came out of their transporter, to be chained by the legs in a tent, with no heating. Tom Raider says, “In rehearsals, Dicky would use both hands, yanking at them with the elephant hook. Letchmai was used even though she was declared as having arthritis the previous year. Animals were chained up from 9am to 8.15pm with no movement. In the ring, Dicky was using a hand held stun gun on the elephants. Dicky used the hook behind the ear, legs, trunk and chin. They were left with blood dripping. They would use the ‘zapper’ electric shock as well, both Dicky and Martin, if the elephants were not moving. When Mina did not move fast, Martin would hit her with the hook around the head. After the show he started beating Camilla because the act had not gone right.”

From Dresden, the animals headed to Massey near Paris for the annual circus festival. Tom described it as, “Very, very cold, wind blowing through the elephants’ tents.” A heater was bought to keep them warm.

Then it was on to Gottingen in Germany – a two day journey with one water break. Even there, the elephants were kept chained in the dark before moving on to Frankfurt. Tom stayed with the circus in Frankfurt until March 12th, when he decided to leave and make his way to England. Before he left he says: I counted the marks on the elephants’ legs from the hook. There were 72 on Mina’s front right leg, 36 on the back, 27 on Camilla’s front leg, 9 on the back right leg and marks behind the ear.”

The Ads monitored the elephants for two days whilst they were with Circus Barelli. The elephants spent the night and most of the day on short chains attached to a front and a hind leg. Before performances they were allowed into a pitifully small electric fenced enclosure, quite clearly inadequate to exercise an elephant. They did not have free access to water and when chained in the tent, were reduced to drinking from puddles.

The Mirror reported that Dicky Chipperfield had claimed that the bull hook was blunt and “widely used” with the prod to train elephants, and that the animals could exercise in Holland albeit on a 20ft chain. “There are elephants treated far worse in India, you know.” He claimed to be concerned with the way the elephants were being kept at Barelli and that he would try to get released from his contract with the circus.

This whole tale shows the deplorable way that animals treated in the circus, but what is most shocking is, as our pictures show, the way these poor animals are treated is typical circus husbandry whether in the UK or not.

Click here to read ‘diary of an exposé’

Animal circuses: Evidence of suffering and abuse

Animal circuses: Opinions

Animal circuses: Circuses and the UK Animal Welfare Bill

Animal circus: Video evidence of violence towards animals

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