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21 August 2021

Doomed alpaca’s owner ‘on high alert’ as Geronimo awaits his fate

21 August 2021

The owner of an alpaca who faces destruction after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis remains on “high alert” after a 24-hour reprieve expired.

Helen Macdonald said officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are yet to visit her farm in south Gloucestershire to enforce the destruction order.

Geronimo has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and his owner believes the tests are returning false positives, but has been refused permission to have him tested a third time.

After she lost her latest High Court battle earlier this week to save Geronimo, Defra officials told Ms Macdonald nothing would be done before 5pm on Friday.

Ms Macdonald, who owns a farm at Wickwar, said: “We will remain on high alert until Secretary of State George Eustice MP gives us permission to test Geronimo with an appropriate test for camelids four years after the misused tests.

“If the result is positive, I will accept it.

“Or keep Geronimo in ‘isolation for research purposes’, which is what we have been doing for four years.

“We must be able to learn and this is being denied to us. Everyone knows that what is happening to us is unreasonable and cruel.”

Helen Macdonald in the bio-secure pen with Geronimo the alpaca (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Macdonald, who imported the alpaca from New Zealand, has received an outpouring of support from the public, with more than 130,000 people signing a petition calling on Boris Johnson to halt the killing.

On Wednesday, a High Court judge refused her lawyer’s application for a temporary injunction to stop the destruction order and reopen the case.

Ms Macdonald said that when Defra officials arrive at her farm to euthanise Geronimo, she will not break the law.

At the farm, friends, family and supporters have joined her to protest against Geronimo’s impending fate.

Geronimo the alpaca with owner Helen Macdonald (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

As well as alpacas, badgers have been a victim of the fight against bovine TB, with mass culling employed to stop the spread since 2013, sparking a huge public backlash.

Last week, the Government insisted all the evidence on Geronimo’s condition had been “looked at very carefully”.

A Defra spokesman said: “We are sympathetic to Ms Macdonald’s situation – just as we are with everyone with animals affected by this terrible disease.

“It is for this reason that the testing results and options for Geronimo have been very carefully considered by Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and its veterinary experts, as well as passing several stages of thorough legal scrutiny.

Demonstrators outside Defra headquarters in central London during a protest march (Hollie Adams/PA) (PA Wire)

“Bovine tuberculosis is one of the greatest animal health threats we face today and causes devastation and distress for farming families and rural communities across the country while costing the taxpayer around £100 million every year.

“Therefore, while nobody wants to cull animals, we need to do everything we can tackle this disease to stop it spreading and to protect the livelihoods of those affected.”

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