Beloved £ 15,000 alpaca set to be killed after farmer lost a final High Court submission to save the animal, which was sentenced to death for contracting bovine tuberculosis four years ago.
Helen Macdonald’s Alpaca Geronimo was culled after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTb) at her farm in Wickwar, Gloucestershire, in 2017.
She has always disputed the result of the original test – claiming that the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) “stubbornly relies on flawed science”.
The experienced alpaca breeder, 48, has started a legal battle against the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2018 with the aim of saving his “very precious” stallion alpaca.
Helen Macdonald’s Alpaca Geronimo (both pictured) was ordered to be slaughtered after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTb) at his farm in Wickwar, Gloucestershire, in 2017
She has always disputed the result of Geromino’s original test (pictured) – claiming the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) “stubbornly relies on flawed science”
She lost her original High Court candidacy in 2019 and a district judge signed an “execution warrant” in May this year allowing the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to seize Geronimo.
The veterinarian nurse appealed the warrant to the High Court as a last resort on Thursday, arguing that the district judge had made a mistake.
Despite his plea for Geronimo to receive a third bTB test, Judge Griffiths dismissed his appeal and set the second execution warrant for August 5.
She previously argued that there was “overwhelming evidence” that showed the alpaca was not infected, and said the original test results were “unreliable.”
In the last call, his lawyer Cathryn McGahey QC, said there was “good reason to believe Geronimo does not have bTB” and said the alpaca had shown “no symptoms” since the last days. two positive tests in 2017.
She added: “Our position is two years away, it’s fair for the court to take another look. ”
Miss Macdonald (pictured) lost her legal battle in 2019 and on Thursday she appealed the warrant to the High Court, arguing the district judge had erred
Despite his plea that Geronimo should undergo a third bTB test, Judge Griffiths dismissed his appeal and set the second execution warrant for August 5. Pictured: Helen Macdonald
The lawyer said the positive test results were skewed after she underwent multiple, but less accurate, skin tests for TB, which she compared to “the bovine equivalent of a lateral flow test.”
Ms Macdonald believes Geronimo’s test came back with a false positive because he was injected with tuberculin as part of the skin tests.
The farmer told the High Court that since bTB was progressing rapidly and Geronimo had not shown any symptoms, he should have another test.
The four-year legal battle to save the condemned alpaca Geronimo
August 2017 – Geronimo first test positive for bovine tuberculosis at Helen Macdonald’s Wickwar farm, Gloucestershire,
November 2017 – Another test confirms Geronimo’s diagnosis and Defra orders his slaughter. But Mrs. Macdonald refuses
July 2018 – Then Agriculture Minister George Eustice wrote to Miss Macdonald to say that he had “reluctantly concluded that the decision to kill Geronimo must be upheld”
July 2018 – Defra’s attorneys write to Ms Macdonald warning her that they will take her to court to get an arrest warrant to go to her farm and kill the animal
He added: “It is the right decision in terms of the responsibility of the government to control this terrible disease”
August 2018 – Ms Macdonald accuses those responsible for organizing a campaign of “bullying and intimidation” which left her in the grip of anxiety
August 2018 – Ms Macdonald sends Defra a legal letter explaining how she would initiate a judicial review unless the alpaca is retested
August 2018 – The same month, Mr Eustice refuses another test, telling Ms Macdonald: “The evidence that he is infected is substantial”
March 2019 – Ms Macdonald took the third test question to court
July 2019 – Ms Macdonald loses her offer for further testing. Judge Murray ruled that there was no “convincing evidence” that the decision not to retest Geronimo was illegal
July 2019 – The same month, Ms Macdonald announces she will go to the Court of Appeal to try to overturn the death sentence – but she does not yet have confirmation that Geronimo will not be killed before a date hearing is fixed
January 2020 – Ms. Macdonald writes to Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers.
She says: “I wrote to Theresa Villiers asking her to look into Geronimo’s case and agree to meet with me as a matter of urgency.
“We hope that, unlike her predecessor, Ms. Villiers will accept that there is no scientific basis to suspect TB in our perfectly healthy boy, whose excellent health has been confirmed by a veterinarian expert in camelids at the following a comprehensive non-invasive clinical examination of Geronimo last month. ‘
She was able to fund £ 10,000 in legal fees to fund her bid to the High Court.
December 2020 – The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) applies to the Bristol Magistrate’s Court for a warrant to gain access to the Geronimo slaughterhouse
June 2021 – The APHA obtains an entry warrant to slaughter Geronimo from June 29 – for 30 days.
Ms Macdonald is seeking to appeal the Magistrate Court’s decision and – on June 18 – both parties were told the High Court appeal would go ahead
July 2021 – Ms Macdonald takes emergency injunction to prevent Geronimo from being killed ahead of the appeal hearing on July 29
July 29 – The High Court dismisses his appeal and says the judge who signed the warrant was right. The judge agreed to delay the start of the second execution warrant until August 5 to allow Miss Macdonald to euthanize Geronimo.
Animals such as alpacas, camels and llamas cannot be tested for TB without permission from Defra – which the department refused to give Miss Macdonald.
Ned Westaway, for the APHA which is part of Defra, said it was unusual to have two tests and a third test would be “futile” and open “floodgates” for other owners.
“The disease can take years to progress and it is on this basis that we maintain our suspicion that Geronimo has TB,” said Westaway.
Defra is concerned that the disease could be transmitted to animals or humans and has previously ordered the farmer to isolate Geronimo in a specially constructed solo enclosure.
In his judgment on Thursday, Judge Griffiths dismissed the appeal and ruled that the judge who signed the warrant was right.
He explained: “The judge acknowledged how sad it was for Miss Macdonald that her alpaca, which had been diagnosed with a bacterium, was now removed and shot.
“He said he had a lot of sympathy for her… maybe no one would be sorry for Miss Macdonald and Geronimo.”
“This is not a case in which Miss Macdonald’s wishes and feelings can be paramount. “
The judge stressed the need to protect against the “serious consequences” of bTB.
Judge Griffiths agreed to delay the start of the second execution warrant until August 5 to allow Miss Macdonald to euthanize Geronimo.
The High Court ruled in June 2019 that the then six-year-old animal should be slaughtered.
But Ms Macdonald challenged their decision, saying Geronimo had shown no “clinical signs” of bTB for two years.
A month later, she announced that she was going to appeal, giving her beloved pet a stay of execution.
But, in December 2020, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) applied to the Bristol Magistrates’ Court for a warrant to obtain permission to slaughter Geronimo before the appeal date was set.
Ms Macdonald was forced to take an emergency injunction to prevent Geronimo from being killed before the appeal could be concluded.
Geronimo has tested positive as part of a national surveillance program to check for bovine tuberculosis at Ms Macdonald’s farm in August 2017.
Another test in November confirmed that Geronimo had contracted the disease.
Since the first test, Ms. Macdonald has not been able to sell livestock or earn income from them due to government restrictions.
She uses her herd to make luxury goods including scarves and pashminas on her farm.
The Secretary of the Environment can order the slaughter of a herd of alpacas if there is a suspicion of an outbreak of the disease.
Regular animal testing is not mandatory. The tests cannot be carried out without the authorization of the Defra secretariat.
After announcing her appeal in 2019, Ms Macdonald said in a statement: “Unless the court ruling is successfully challenged, Geronimo will soon be shot.
“We believe that apart from the two very questionable test results (based on tests before which Geronimo was primed several times with tuberculin), all the evidence points to Geronimo not being infected with TB-B . “
Ms Macdonald believes the first test came back with a false positive because he was injected with tuberculin as part of skin tests done just before leaving New Zealand.
The second test took place weeks after he received another dose of the drug.
His previous statement added: “It is part of my duty of care as a landlord and part of my right to expect fair treatment from my government that Geronimo is properly tested.
“I am also deeply concerned that the High Court ruling may have very negative implications for voluntary camel surveillance testing for TB in this country. “