British circus owner guilty of abusing elephant

A British circus owner has been found guilty on three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an Asian elephant called Anne.

Bobby Roberts was handed a three-year conditional discharge on Friday at Northampton Crown Court in central England over the mistreatment of the 58-year-old animal in his care.

Roberts, 69, was also also convicted of failing to prevent a Romanian groom from repeatedly beating the elephant, which was filmed chained to the ground and being hit with a pitchfork.

He also failed to ensure the elephant's needs were met, by not giving her medication for her arthritis.

Roberts was not banned from owning animals.

District judge David Chinnery said Roberts had not directly inflicted the suffering and had cared for animals all his career without criticism.

"No cruelty was administered by your own hand," he said.

"The chaining I regard as serious but the real cruelty it seems to me was inflicted by your groom, a man whom you had entrusted with the care of Anne, behind your back and without your knowledge.

"As a result of what has happened your business is effectively at an end. You have lost everything which you have built up over the last five decades."

He added that Roberts had "suffered enough punishment over the last 18 months".

The court saw footage secretly filmed by animal welfare group Animal Defenders International of the elephant being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by the groom at the circus's winter quarters last year.

ADI chief executive Jan Creamer said afterwards: "Despite the considerable suffering caused to Anne the elephant, the sentencing meted out to Mr Roberts is derisory and provides no faith that the Animal Welfare Act can protect animals in circuses."

Chinnery criticised ADI for releasing the footage to media first and for having "effectively 'sat on' the evidence for two months".

Anne has been moved to a safari park.