Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Shocking new ADI cruelty exposé shames UK circus industry

Posted: 26 March 2011. Updated: 15 November 2017

Animal Defenders International (ADI) today released shocking footage from behind the scenes at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, which graphically shows violence and confinement of circus animals.

ADI secured footage over a three and a half week period from a camera observing activity in a barn where the animals are kept when not touring, which shows a staggeringly high level of violence and serious animal husbandry flaws. Incidents included Annie (Anne), an elderly, severely arthritic 57 year old elephant being hit with a metal pitchfork and kicked around the face and body 48 times over the period of observation by workers, who are also seen beating and spitting on a camel and beating miniature ponies and horses on numerous occasions.

The disturbing footage also shows Annie constantly chained for the entire period of filming by her front and arthritic back leg with only enough room to take one step forward or backwards. Her chains were only changed to different legs twice, ADI believes this will clearly cause her pain and discomfort. It was noted that the feeding regime was poor.

What makes this case all the more disturbing is that the circus proprietor Bobby Roberts claims publicly to take good care of Annie as ‘she is a family pet’ and ‘part of the family’. The condemning video evidence can be viewed here.

Having collected the damning evidence, ADI is discussing the potential for legal action with its lawyers. The worker has left the premises during the night so ADI requests that if Bobby Roberts knows the name of the worker he needs to provide that so that justice can be done.

As government prepares to make an announcement within the next few weeks regarding the fate of animal circuses in the UK and makes the decision to implement a total ban or self regulation, Animal Defenders International believes that this new evidence provides them with only one option – a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “Annie’s tragic story symbolizes the plight of circus animals and is a shocking indictment of the circus industry at a key time as government considers a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. We have presented successive governments with extensive evidence from our undercover investigations over the years into UK circuses that proves conclusively that routine violence and deprivation is endemic within the industry.

“To Lord Henley, the Minister responsible, we say enough is enough. It is now time for him to act decisively to stop this appalling suffering. It is time for him to enact a total ban once and for all.”

Government’s own public consultation in March 2010 found that an overwhelming 94.5% of the public want to see a ban on wild animals in circuses and over 170 MPs have now signed Early Day Motion 403 calling on the Government to ban wild animal acts. A recent parliamentary poll conducted by ADI found that 63% of MPs would like to see a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and only 14% disagreed.

ADI has now exposed the shocking abuse of animals in UK circuses from several random undercover investigations over the last fifteen years. Only recently, in 2009, the beating of elephants at the Great British Circus was exposed and now in 2011 Bobby Roberts Super Circus shows that this is a way of life at the circus. A clear pattern has been proven and this time the government needs to act.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “The release of this footage stops any attempt by UK government to ignore the will of the public. It is clear that self-regulation is not an option in this industry.

“Once again, we have exposed that cruelty and deprivation is rife within the circus industry. We have also established that self regulation is not a viable option as the government would be asking circuses like Bobby Roberts or the Great British Circus to regulate themselves. That would be a farce, and the animals will continue to suffer abuse. “

And to the circus industry, ADI says enough is enough.

Jan said: “I have no doubt that it will be claimed that this is an ‘exception’ and/or that the owner was not aware of the abuse, but the evidence is now conclusive. Each time we expose the cruelty, the circuses give a similar range of excuses.

“ADI has been concerned for Annie’s welfare for many years and have followed her tragic plight. Poor Annie has been with the circus for over 50 years since she was baby, having been caught in the wild and torn from her family. Elephants are social and extremely intelligent so this has been a living hell for her. At last we have managed to expose this circus operation for the cruel farce that it is and never again can Roberts preach about animal welfare and how well his animals are cared for.”

Tim concluded: “Our latest investigation shows how animals like elephants suffer in the travelling circus. In the name of entertainment they are beaten, jabbed with hooks and hit with pitchforks, chained up for hours every day, and pushed into metal boxes each week where they remain for hours on end whilst the circus moves to another site. And when they are meant to be resting in their winter quarters the abuse and cruelty continues.

“The public wants to see a ban, Parliament wants a ban, animal protection groups want a ban. A ban is the only way to put an end, once and for all, to this deplorable violence and deprivation, and government must act now.”

The Bobby Roberts Super Circus began its UK tour on the 24 March. Potential visitors are being asked to vote with their feet and stay away.

ADI is consulting with its lawyers to see what the potential is for legal action.


Photos, interview opportunities and broadcast quality footage is available on request.

Media Contact:
Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International, 07716 018250, 0207 630 3344,

Filming took place between 21 January 2011 and 15 February 2011.

ADI has been concerned about the plight of Annie for a number of years, including flying a vet to her when she became desperately ill. The footage shows that the senseless beatings by her keepers are punctuated by tirades of abuse, and their resentment of her is abundantly clear. She is desolate, isolated, severely restricted and alone with her day punctuated by random beatings with a pitchfork by her keepers or kicks from her owner who claims to cherish her.

In May 2008, Bobby Roberts published a message on his website regarding Annie and all the performing animals in his circus. Content included: “Anne our beloved elephant is now 55 years old….”Having worked faithfully for me for over 45 years we will now give her every possible care, attention and love for the remainder of her life.” “For Anne to be anywhere other than on the circus, where she is with the humans, her family, who she knows and trusts, together with the circus animals who have become her constant companions, would cause her unnecessary stress and indeed could easily make her lose her life, which would be heartbreaking.” Google Cache:

In press reports he has also been quoted as saying “We take good care of her she is a family pet,” and responding to criticism from animal protection groups including ADI said: “How can they know better than us what is best for her?” (04/08/10, “She is like part of the family. Annie will not be taken away from Bobby Roberts’ circus. We care too much about her.” (04/04/10, Sunday Mail.) News and Star:

Daily Record:

Elephants are sensitive, intelligent animals, and studies clearly show that their intelligence is on a par with great apes and dolphins. Various papers have been written with regard to elephant intelligence: ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ –

Although Anne is an Asian elephant, the African and Asian species have similar intelligence and sensitivies. It is said of the African elephant that, “This species has the largest brain of any animal – twice the size of that of the largest whale – and is thought to be highly intelligent. Elephants are able to use tools, remember concepts over long periods, as well as showing other emotionally intelligent skills, such as grief, altruism, and self-awareness” Uhlenbroek, C (2008) Animal Life: The Definitive Visual Guide to animals and their Behaviour, Dorling Kindersley, UK

Dods Monitoring polled 100 MPs from Tuesday 4th January – Friday 28th January via online and paper polling. The question asked was: “The Government should ban the use of wild animals in circuses rather than let the industry self-regulate their welfare.” To what extent do you agree with this statement? The poll found that 63% of MPs Agreed or Strongly Agreed with this statement. Of the 100 MPs who were polled on this issue 14% Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed and 6% did not respond.

ADI has now investigated many randomly selected UK circuses over the last fifteen years and each time uncovered physical and mental abuse, deprivation and suffering. However, due to the secretive nature of circuses behind the scenes, rarely is there evidence that can bring culprits to court. ADI investigations into Chipperfields took place at Chipperfield Enterprises, Chipperfield Classic Circus, and Mary Chipperfield Promotions. Mary and Roger Crawley were convicted of cruelty to animals in January 1999. Their elephant keeper Michael Stephen Gills was jailed for four months for similar offences at the end of 1998. Gills repeatedly attacked the elephants using chains, shovels, pitchforks and metal bars. His frenzied attacks involved up to 32 blows to the face of a helpless chained elephant. Gills also hit a bear and tigers.

Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger Cawley were filmed hitting elephants across the face with various weapons including whips, pitchforks and buckets, including the beating of Trudy, a baby chimpanzee.

Both hit camels about the head, face and body.

Acting on ADI evidence, the police charged Michael Stephen Gills who pleaded guilty to all charges and was jailed in November for four months and banned from working with animals for five years and Mary Chipperfield was found guilty on twelve counts of cruelty relating to Trudy, and Roger Cawley guilty on one count relating to Flora.

ADI’s exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants in 2009 at the Great British Circus put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda, and their evidence was presented to Government which helped prompt a public consultation on animal circuses in December 2009. The distressing evidence can be found at the following link:

The spread of years shows that the abuse of circus animals is endemic to the UK circus industry, and further afield, ADI’s worldwide investigations have proved this to be a global problem.

ADI is leading the campaign to end the suffering of animals in entertainment and currently has major campaigns running in Europe, South America, and now in the USA. The organisation has just rescued a record breaking 25 circus lions from Bolivia to the US, having conducted undercover investigations which helped close down the circus industry in the country for good.

National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, Norway, Peru and Greece.

Photographs and video are available from the various ADI investigations.
Animal Defenders International (ADI)
With offices in London, Los Angeles, and Bogota Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, lobbying to protect animals on issues such as animals in entertainment and their use in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI involves itself in international animal rescues as well as educational work on animals, conservation and environment. Founded in 1990, ADI has become a major force for animal protection and has succeeded through its undercover investigations in securing legal protection for animals. ADI opposes violence or intimidation whether directed at humans or other animals.

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