The opinions expressed by John Blunt are not necessarily those of this newspaper

FINDING circus trainer Mary Chipperfield guilty of a catalogue of sickening cruelty to a baby chimpanzee and her husband - a government zoo inspector, no less - guilty of cruelly beating a sick elephant covered in open sores with a whip and a stick, Andover stipendiary magistrate Roger House said the couple were not guilty of 'gratuitous' cruelty.


Tell us, Mr House, just what is the opposite of gratuitous cruelty, and does it hurt any less?

In fact, that employed by this disgusting pair was worse - certainly in the case of the defiant torturer Mary. For, it was systematic.

Indeed, in my book and I am sure that of many others, she would have been guilty of cruelty to the 18-month-old chimp called Trudy, which she repeatedly kicked and beat with a riding crop, even if she had never laid a finger on the poor creature.

For consider the conditions in which the animal was confined. She spent most of her life in a freezing barn - in a cage less than four metres by three. She was isolated from other animals and had just a swing, a rope and a ball for amusement.

She was locked up every night for 15 hours in a darkened box of the kind people use to transport cats. And her meals included scraps from supermarket rubbish bins. Would any court concerned with seeing justice done let this horribly-treated animal go back to those conditions?

Or to this awful woman - when she said on oath she would do the same again?

It is a mark of her disgusting callousness that at one point during her thrashing of the defenceless sobbing chimp, she took away her only comfort, her orange ball, and said: "You can bloody cry."

It is a mark, too, of her unrepentant shamelessness that she is insisting on having Trudy back from her new caring home at Monkey World in Dorset where she was taken after being confiscated by police last April. And how convenient it is that as Trudy is owned by a company and not Cruella Chipperfield herself, so that, it would seem, there may be nothing the court can do to stop her going back to the Chipperfield hell-hole farm.

Mr House, who has been frightfully lenient so far in not disqualifying Chipperfield from being an animal trainer, needs to be made aware that if poor Trudy is returned to her care, the country will go ape with outrage.

And probably sufficiently so for some of the wilder animal rights nutters to give this vile and arrogant woman a dose of her own medicine.

The magistrate must prevent this by ensuring Trudy stays where she is - even if it means making legal history and somehow making a chimpanzee a ward of court. For the law will truly be an ass and justice made a monkey of if Chipperfield gets her back.

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