Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International



Victory: UK’s largest supplier of circus lion and tiger acts closes and the notorious Dicky Chipperfield flees to France.

The closure of Chipperfield Enterprises, one of the world¹s largest suppliers of circus lion and tiger acts, marks another incredible landmark in the ADI campaign to end the abuse of animals for entertainment. Exposed again and again by our Special Investigations Department, the decline and fall of Chipperfield Enterprises is indicative of our determination. And we’ve not finished yet, we’ve tracked Dicky Chipperfield to France where once again we caught him on film hitting tigers ­ the story appeared as a major exposé in the Daily Mirror in January.

Dicky Chipperfield’s Chipperfield Enterprises operation at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, was the hub of a thriving circus animal supply business for decades. Dicky once boasted to BBC Wildlife magazine that he had bred over a thousand lions and tigers at the farm - the site had once even held polar bears and elephants.
Chipperfield, who specialises in lion and tiger acts, would train new acts for circuses for sale, or rent. A fully trained circus act could be sold for up to £25-30,000.

In 1993, a team of ADI Field Officers obtained the first ever footage inside the permanent quarters in Oxfordshire. When our first video, Circus Madness was launched, television viewers were stunned by the rows and rows of cages of lions and tigers, warehoused waiting for the next circus season. Then, in 1996, 7.3 million viewers tuned into a special exposé by ADI of the way animals are kept when circuses are not touring. We took the viewers into the winter quarters of Mary Chipperfield Promotions, Circus King, and Chipperfield Enterprises Ltd. All three are now closed.

Chipperfield Enterprises appeared to be riding the storm. Later that year, the name Chipperfield’s Classic Circus was being leased to circus promoter Tony Hopkins. A Chipperfield Enterprises tiger act was being presented at the circus, where an ADI Field Officer was already working undercover as beastman ­ the start of an investigation that would sign the the end for the UK animal circus industry.

During 1997, Chipperfield Enterprises had animal acts in France, Monte Carlo, the USA, Germany, and the UK. In 1998, everything changed. The Chipperfield Enterprises farm in Oxfordshire and cousin Mary’s farm, Mary Chipperfield Promotions in Hampshire, had both been infiltrated by Field Officers from ADI. The horrific video footage of animals living in confined, barren conditions, and animals being beaten, shocked the world.


Decline and Fall
The ADI video footage has led to local authority and national bans in countries as far a field as Singapore, Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Greece and the UK as the lid was lifted on the cruelty of the circus industry. The effect on Chipperfield Enterprises and the circus industry has been devastating. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of animal circuses in the UK dropped from 23 to to 12. But more significantly, the number of circuses with exotic acts such as lions plunged from 20 to 4.

In 2003, just one circus toured the UK with a tiger act. But the Chipperfield Circus name, which had been regularly hired out to circus promoters, was never rented again.

Dicky was already isolated. His son, Richard Chipperfield junior, was badly mauled by a tiger in 1998 and he and his brother Graham Thomas Chipperfield (also a big cat presenter) did not present animals again. The brothers had been presenting big cats and the three Chipperfield Enterprises elephants with Ringlings Brothers Circus in USA. In 1999, ADI exposed the long sea journey that the elephants had undergone to get back to Europe.

Chipperfield Enterprises battled on only to suffer another huge blow in 2000 when longtime circus worker, Tom Rider, blew the whistle to ADI about the abuse of the Chipperfield Enterprises elephants. After massive press in the UK, ADI arranged for Tom to work with our colleagues in the USA, where he has given legal testimony and addressed Congressional hearings. Chipperfield Circus decline was now well and truly underway and the tragic elephants were sold a year later to a French circus.

By 2003, Dicky had steadily sold off all of the Chipperfield Enterprises stock - to circuses in Ireland, France and Portugal. In late 2003, ADI confirmed that the Oxfordshire site which had once heaved with lions and tigers, was empty. Instead Graham Chipperfield runs a marquee and tent supply company from the site ­ it is not involved with any animal circuses. Tim Phillips, ADI Campaigns Director, who worked undercover at Chipperfield Enterprises feeding and cleaning out the lions and tigers and was one of the original ADI photographers at the site in 1993, notes: “It was a horrific place, these magnificent animals would be confined in tiny metal boxes - just travelling containers lifted off the backs of lorries. Some nights it would get so cold that the water in the cages would freeze solid. There were indoor dens, too, and these were medieval - the lions lived in tiny wooden cages raised off the ground, the floors of these were stinking and soaked in excrement and urine.

After our campaigns, Dicky built a small outdoor enclosure, but many animals never got to see this. We filmed Dicky hitting and poking the animals to make them obey - even throwing stones at them. Returning to the farm in 2003, it was wonderful to see that this vile establishment was no longer operating. The beastwagons, cages, and whips were all gone. I remember my last day see those rows and rows of sad faces and rejoiced that it was at last over.


To France
But Dicky has not given up, he’s just gone into exile. he has subsequently told the Daily Mirror that he has not been driven out of the country, it’s just that circuses have stopped using animals! In 2003, ADI learned from a French contact that Dicky had joined Circus Jean Richard Pinder as an animal trainer. We were able to obtain some footage of Dicky training and determined to put the circus under surveillance. In December, the circus took up residence in Paris for about seven weeks and an ADI team went out to monitor them.

Our Field Officers found the lions and tigers still living in beastwagons, cages on the backs of lorries. They would occasionally be allowed into a small so-called ‘exercise enclosure’. This was a concrete area with just a scattering of straw. There was nothing to amuse the animals. Getting to see Dicky training was difficult, with much in secret, however we still found him up to his old tricks lashing out at animals if they disobeyed, even catching him on film hitting a tiger hard over the head with a metal bar and then again across the back as it ran in terror, just to make sure it got the message.

The exchange showed the old Dicky Chipperfield, losing his temper and shouting: “Bastard. You f***ing bastard, come here,” followed by (six times in succession!) “I’ll sort you out” and challenging the animal to come forward.

That was behind the scenes ­ that night during performance, Dicky was all smiles, wearing a black tie outfit, performing to the James Bond theme tune. Meanwhile, backstage Circus Pinder workers were filmed jabbing the animals with metal bars and hitting the tunnel bars over their heads, to drive them into the ring. In the background, Dicky Chipperfield can be heard barking out commands.

In January 2004, Circus Pinder Jean Richard started a tour of France, with ADI on the trail. In Tours in central France, an ADI Field Officer gained access to a training session where Dicky was in the ring with a mixed group of lions and tigers, but was asked to leave by suspicious circus workers. Our message to Dicky Chipperfield is: GIVE UP. You’ve made a good living from these animals, now give them a break, and retire. This is also a wake up call to the British Government ­ another reminder of the reality of life for circus animals ­ confinement, deprivation, and punishment. When the Government finally unveils the Animal Welfare Bill , there is an opportunity to end this brutal and unnecessary abuse ­ it would be a tragedy if this is not taken.

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© Animal Defenders International 2019