Circus elephant owner would never condone beating animals

Bobby and Moira Roberts. Photo credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Bobby and Moira Roberts. Photo credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
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The owner of a circus elephant, who is accused of allowing his staff to beat the animal, has said he was disgusted when he saw the footage of a groom striking her with a pitchfork in Polebrook.

Bobby Roberts (69), who owns Bobby Roberts Super Circus, said the behaviour of the groom was “disgraceful and disgusting” and that he would never have condoned such actions.

Roberts, wearing a black jacket and purple waistcoat, told District Judge David Chinnery at Northampton Crown Court today (Thursday) he had no knowledge of the behaviour towards the 58-year-old Asian elephant.

He said: “It’s disgraceful, disgusting. I can’t tell you what I would have done.

“The police would have been involved. Still now when I think about it, it goes through me, I just can’t believe it.”

Roberts and his wife Moira (75), from Oundle, deny causing unnecessary suffering and failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating Anne.

The court has been shown footage filmed secretly by animal welfare group Animal Defenders International (ADI) of the animal being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by the groom at the circus’s winter quarters in Polebrook last year.

The footage, filmed between January 21 and February 15 2011 also showed Anne constantly chained to the ground.

The elderly elephant could be seen chained by one foot and one hind leg in a barn.

The legs of the animal - who the prosecution allege was not receiving medication for its arthritis - could also be seen to buckle several times in the footage.

Bobby Roberts told the court he was unaware that Anne had been constantly chained and that the groom, who is believed to have returned home to Romania, had not followed his instructions.

He admitted the elephant would be chained up at times but said his instructions were that the animal be let loose behind an electric fence in a cordoned off area of the barn when possible or, if the weather was good, to be taken to a field outside.

Roberts and his wife also deny a charge of failing to ensure the elephant’s needs were met by not giving her medication for her arthritis.

He told the court that the elephant had been refusing to take aspirin prescribed for its condition for about five or six days.

He said: “I put the medicine in apples, bananas.

“She’d take it for about three days and then she would stop.”