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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 22:18 GMT


Circus trainer guilty of cruelty

Mrs Cawley is secretly filmed hitting one of her camels

One of the world's leading circus trainers, Mary Chipperfield, has been convicted of animal cruelty.

Geeta Guru-Murthy: "Mary Chipperfield has refused to make any comment"
Chipperfield, who gave her name in court as Mary Cawley, was convicted of 12 counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an 18-month-old chimp, Trudy.

The court was told that she beat the animal with a riding crop during November and December 1997.

[ image: Mrs Cawley required police protection outside the court]
Mrs Cawley required police protection outside the court
Despite the conviction, she is applying to have the chimp returned to her training centre where the beatings were carried out.

Cawley, 61, was confronted by an angry mob of animal activists as she left court smiling.

Her husband Roger Cawley was also found guilty of cruelty to a sick elephant, which he whipped around a circus ring to "see how sick she was".

The BBC's Catherine Marston reports from the court
Both will be sentenced on 9 April when the chimp's fate will also be decided.

The court was told how Trudy was made to sleep in a dog's travelling box inside a dark unheated barn at Croft Farm in Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

[ image: Protesters yell at Mrs Cawley as she is driven away]
Protesters yell at Mrs Cawley as she is driven away
Video footage played at the trial showed Mary Cawley beating the chimp with a riding crop while trying to put her to bed in the tiny box.

She also kicked the animal in the back up to 15 times while holding it by the arm, the court was told.

But magistrate Roger House, sitting in Andover, Hampshire, said Cawley's treatment of Trudy was not "gratuitous cruelty for the sake of cruelty".

"In this sense either Mrs Chipperfield was impatient or she was bad tempered. There was a means to be achieved and in her mind there was a purpose or discipline involved," he said.

The Cawleys, who jointly faced 28 charges of cruelty and neglect, were acquitted on all other counts. They denied all charges.

Mr House said prolonged chaining and lack of bathing did not come under the legal definition of cruelty, nor did the whipping of camels.

Secret fliming

During the trial Mr House watched videotapes, secretly filmed by the charity Animal Defenders, which showed alleged acts of cruelty on animals at the trainer's winter quarters near Andover, Hampshire.

Afterwards the group's director Jan Creamer called for more must to be done to prevent suffering at animal training centres for film and television as well as circuses.

"We want to see these animal training centres brought under the Zoo Licensing Act," she said.

"At the moment there are no regulations to ensure that the kind of cruelty we have shown in court this week-and-a-half isn't happening elsewhere."

'Tough' animals

Giving evidence in court on Monday, Mary Cawley said chimpanzees are "tough" and would not have been harmed by any violence she inflicted on them.

She said she had beaten Trudy with a riding crop because the chimp had tried to bite her.

"The force I used couldn't possibly have done any damage... chimpanzees are very tough," she added.

But expert witnesses condemned the treatment.

Dr Jane Goodall, an expert on chimpanzees, told the court last week that 18-month-old Trudy was kept in an "utterly inappropriate fashion" and had lived in a climate of "fear and despair".

She said there could be "no justification at all" for such treatment.

John Gripper, a former government zoo inspector, told the court he was "shocked and saddened" after watching the video footage.

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