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I carry on working, but it keeps coming back to this ….

by Darren

It was going to happen.  For those who don’t know, I have a background in campaigning having worked in politics in the UK for ten years until 2006.  My wife, Louise worked in that field (for five years) as did James Barisic.  When something like the recent slew of shops using animals to promote Christmas sprung up, we were always going to be in the frame to do something about it.

It’s exhausting, and I would far rather be watching wonderful wild animals such as this grey squirrel.  I thought the pose was appropriate for the activities of the last two weeks.  Some people have told me via this blog that I should ‘stay away’, ‘do something more productive’ etc etc, but I do find this productive.  I truly am moved that we all have managed to make a small but significant difference here, but as each new piece of information comes out a whole new layer of research is required.

The more I get into this, the murkier it gets.  Many people are asking who is supplying the animals, and I do know via the welfare inspector from Westminster Council that the Hamleys penguins were being supplied by a company called ‘Amazing Animals’.  Amazing Animals owns Heythrop Private Zoo in Oxfordshire (not to be confused with the Heythrop Hunt, claimed to have been frequented by Prime Minister David Cameron).

Amazing Animals and Heythrop Zoo are run by Jim Clubb and his wife Jane.  She goes by the name Jane Clubb now, but she used to be Jane Chipperfield, of the circus family.  A quick search of Companies House records shows that Heythrop Zoological Gardens Ltd was previously known as Clubb-Chipperfield Ltd.  Clubb Chipperfield used to share premises with Mary Chipperfield.  I’ll let you use Google to fill in the blanks.

That said, we aren’t saying this is about cruelty, I’m just giving you a bit of background on who’s involved.  There is no evidence that I have seen of individual acts of cruelty towards the penguins or any other animals involved in this performance trade.  But what we are saying is that bringing animals to busy shops and shopping centres is a practice from the past, adapted to make a quick buck in the present.  Cruelty has always been illegal, but in the case of performing animals, the law hasn’t kept up with public opinion and therefore allows animals to be brought into an environment which is not compatible with ensuring their welfare.  As I said to a correspondent on a previous post, just because we [as a species] can, doesn’t mean we should.

It’s widely thought that Mercedes, the polar bear previously at Edinburgh Zoo and now residing at Highland Wildlife Park was the last captive polar bear held in the UK.

Nope, Heythrop have got one. She’s called Zara.

That’s probably enough for now – my research goes on although clearly any (already non-existent) thoughts of undercover work are blown by my appearance tonight on ITV London News.  Knowing how balanced reporting works, I’m certain if they found just one person on the pavement outside Hamleys who was willing to say that having penguins in the store is a good idea, they’d have run it.  Instead we got three people chosen at random, all of whom said the same as us – this is crazy.

People are still trying to paint us as extremists, and that we’re just a few people spoiling the enjoyment of the majority.  We set out to run a polite, non-aggressive campaign and that’s what we’ve done.  Unlike the stores, our primary concern in all of this has been the welfare of the animals involved.  Physical protest would have just made a terrible environment worse and caused them more stress.  That’s not what I’m about, it’s not what you’re about.

I don’t know how many twitter accounts there are in the UK, but I’m thinking 180,000 isn’t ‘a few’ people.  And as for extremists, have a look again at those google searches.