Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Video: lion hits out at circus trainer

Posted: 17 July 2015

Celebrities Deborah Meaden and Dom Littlewood speak out

A lion has hit out at ‘Britain’s last lion tamer’ during a show in Wales. Shocking footage shows Tsavo the lion taking a swipe at circus trainer Thomas Chipperfield during ‘An evening with lions and tigers’ at its first stop in Welshpool.

The performance opens tonight at its second stop in Wrexham, despite overwhelming opposition and planned protests. Animal Defenders International (ADI) launched a Care2 petition against the ‘Victorian’ circus-style performance, which has amassed almost 50,000 signatures of support in the last week. Wrexham resident Emma Hughes said that she is "ashamed that our town and council is allowing the event".

‘An evening with lions and tigers’ was denied a license in Scotland and cancelled from an event in Herefordshire after ADI raised concerns, with a petition attracting 12,000 signatures in just four days.

ADI spokesperson Fleur Dawes said “This incident clearly demonstrates these incredible big cats do not want to be subjugated. Even when bred in captivity, lions retain all their wild instincts. Comments attributed to the show’s director reveal a worrying lack of knowledge about the animals in their care. This archaic act has no educational value and clearly causes animal suffering. It is high time to ban wild animal acts. Please sign our petition and call on your MP to sign EDM 192 today.”

A postponed feature on the act was broadcast by BBC One’s The One Show earlier this week, despite criticism from ADI and members of the public. Guest and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden voiced her concerns in the studio, saying “fundamentally I like my wild animals wild, but they were born in captivity, but I’m not sure about the message that it sends out, you know that we kind of dominate species. Well species aren’t there for our entertainment and it worries me that it just kind of perpetuates that view that we can just pick them up, we can make them do what we want them to do, you know... it just makes me feel uncomfortable.”

The event is promoted as “educational”, however presenter and journalist Dom Littlewood, who presented The One Show feature and saw the show questioned its value, stating “I personally don’t think there is much they would learn from that show.”

Statements attributed to the show director appear to reveal a concerning lack of basic knowledge about the animals. Anthony Beckwith attempted to explain the incident, saying “We have a lioness who is in season and the male lions try to assert their dominance over her.” However, there are only two lions in the show who are both male. Worryingly, he is reported as stating that such incidents “happen all the time”.

Four year old lions Assegai and Tsavo live in cages alongside tigers Nadia, Altai and Syas on the back of a truck known as a ‘beastwagon’. Their owner is circus trainer Thomas Chipperfield, a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield who was convicted for multiple counts of animal cruelty in the late 1990s following an investigation by ADI.

Chipperfield and his family toured with Duffy’s Circus in Ireland for many years before returning to Britain in 2013, where he presented a big cat act at Peter Jolly’s Circus – one of two circuses still performing with wild animals. After causing outrage across the UK with the return of big cats to a British circus, he took the cats to spend the cold winter months on the Scottish coast.

Chipperfield is now attempting a series of one-man animal shows. The first was denied a licence by local authorities in Scotland, and a show in Herefordshire was cancelled. ‘An evening with lions and tigers’ opened on July 3 in Welshpool, attracting negative publicity and low audiences, and sparking an outcry from animal organisations and members of the public. MP Glyn Davies expressed his disappointment that the show was being held in his constituency.

The lives that the Chipperfield big cats endure are in stark contrast to those they would have in the wild. Given their solitary nature, in their natural environment tigers have limited contact with their own kind, roaming and defending a territory which can be as large as 470 km2. In their confined travelling circus living quarters, the Chipperfield tigers live in close proximity to one another and alongside lions, who they would not encounter in the wild.

Voicing his concern at the environment the animals are forced to endure, wildlife vet Simon Adams said “the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats” and the ability to be able to patrol their huge natural territories is “an essential behavioural drive”.

ADI has documented the Chipperfield cats exhibiting abnormal, repetitive behaviour not witnessed in the wild but commonly seen in performing animals. Their unnatural behaviour has been described by vet Marc Abraham as “a sure sign their welfare is severely compromised”.

The British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of performing wild animals, and their distaste for this outdated form of entertainment is reflected by consistently high support for a wild animal circus ban. A 2013 YouGov poll found, with regard to the use of lions and tigers, 78% and 79% believed these animals should not be used in circuses.

Over 200 local councils have banned animal circuses from public land and a commitment has been made to prohibit wild animal acts in England and Wales, for which national legislation has already been drafted. Scotland will soon announce its plans, following a public consultation which revealed last month that 98% of respondents support a ban.

To expedite the circus ban legislation, Jim Fitzpatrick MP has introduced Early Day Motion 192, which has secured cross-party support since being tabled.

Contact: Fleur Dawes 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

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