UK’s ‘Last Lion Tamer’ is Denied a License to Perform

Animal advocates are celebrating news that a big cat trainer with a troubling history has been denied a license to use his two lions and a tiger in performances in England.

Thomas Chipperfield, who is known as “Britain’s last lion tamer,” has remained in the spotlight over the years for his controversial shows involving big cats. Sadly, numerous problems have been exposed by Animal Defenders International (ADI) that show what sad lives Chipperfield’s big cats lead as a result of being used as entertainers.

Not only do these big cats, who are endangered animals, have to perform ridiculous tricks to please audiences, behind the scenes they’re deprived of essentially everything these species need to thrive.

Now, however, it looks like Chipperfield’s days are numbered in England. A freedom of information request by the BBC confirmed that Chipperfield submitted an application to the government last year for his Big Cats Live Circus, but he was denied. He appealed, but the decision was recently upheld again.

According to the BBC, the license was denied because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said “it was not satisfied licensing conditions would be met based on Mr Chipperfield’s previous conduct as an operator of a travelling circus and other relevant circumstances.” His appeal was rejected by a court because “although he was very experienced with big cats, along with concerns over licensing conditions not being met it felt he would also be unable to maintain suitable care plans for the animals and to provide written itineraries.”

The decision is something to celebrate, and reflects both growing public opposition to the use of wild animals in circuses, and the UK’s commitment to finally end it once and for all.

“The decisive action taken by DEFRA and the court is a victory for common sense and we hope signals the beginning of the end of circus suffering in England. Travelling shows cannot meet animals’ needs and ADI has repeatedly documented suffering and abuse. Let’s now consign these outdated acts to the past where they belong, across the UK,” said ADI President Jan Creamer.

Thanks to public pressure, these outdated acts are soon expected to be made history. In March, it was announced that England is finally going to fulfill its pledge to ban wild animals in circuses by 2020.

With one less big cat act in England, and similar bans having been recently passed in Ireland and Scotland, along with one under consideration in Wales, the entire UK is now one step closer to being free of this kind of cruelty and exploitation forever.

While it looks like a major win for animal performers is on the horizon in the UK, which will join more than 40 other countries that have stepped up to stop circus suffering, other nations, including the U.S., are still lagging behind.

In the U.S., animal advocates are urging Congress to pass the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) which would end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses once and for all.

While numerous cities and states have taken action to protect animals in entertainment, supporters of this bill argue that the issue needs to be addressed on a federal level because the mobile nature of circuses makes it difficult for law enforcement and inspectors to follow up on violations of the Animal Welfare Act. This leaves officials virtually incapable of doing anything meaningful to ensure the wellbeing of animals, or the safety of the public.

You can help by signing and sharing the petition urging Congress to pass the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act.

For more info and updates on the progress being made to protect animals in entertainment, check out Stop Circus Suffering.

Photo credit: Animal Defenders International


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you for posting.

Cindy S
Cindy Smith7 months ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie R7 months ago

Thank you for posting.

natasha p
Past Member 7 months ago

he is a sicko

Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago

great news

Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride9 months ago

Good news.

Janis K
Janis K9 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S9 months ago


Margie F
Margie FOURIE9 months ago

Glad. Wild animals should be in the wild.

Virginia Abreu de Paula

How about the two lions? How come an article like that is totally silent about what will happen to the lions, for God's sake?