The eight-year-old was sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis upon arriving from New Zealand in 2017
Last night, Environment Secretary George Eustice refused to spare the life of doomed alpaca Geronimo.
The eight-year-old animal was sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis upon arriving from New Zealand in 2017.
A court order that took effect yesterday gives officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 30 days to visit owner Helen Macdonald’s farm to slaughter Geronimo.
Alpaca breeder Miss Macdonald, 50, said she feared government officials ‘would break in and shoot him’ and vowed to prevent his execution, saying ‘I’ll die first’ .
Mr Eustice made his first comments on the case last night following pressure to allow Geronimo to be tested again. But he refused to change his position, effectively delivering the alpaca to slaughter.
He said: “My own family has a South Devon cattle herd and we have lost cows to TB so I know how painful it can be and I have immense sympathy for the farmers. who suffer losses. I have reviewed this case several times over the past three years and have reviewed all of the evidence in detail with the chief vet and other experts. Unfortunately, Geronimo has tested positive twice using a highly specific and reliable test.
Alpaca breeder Miss Macdonald, 50, said she feared government officials “might break in and shoot him” and pledged to prevent his execution, saying: ” I will die first ”
Miss Macdonald, of Wickwar, Gloucestershire, who bought Geronimo for £ 15,000 to be a stallion, said serious questions had been raised about how Defra was handling the case.
Why an animal risks the death penalty
How many tests has Geronimo passed?
Sept. Geronimo underwent four skin tests before being exported from New Zealand. They produced negative results. He also had two Enferplex blood tests and a UK skin test – all positive.
How does the Enferplex test work?
It measures the number of certain antibodies in Geronimo’s blood. If a threshold is reached, the test is positive. A substance called tuberculin is injected into the animal. It contains a “heat inactivated” form of bovine tuberculosis (TBB) and triggers an immune response that would indicate previous exposure to the disease.
Is it correct ?
Defra said the test has a 0.36% chance of being false positive. But tests of its accuracy have not been carried out with tuberculin on alpacas.
Why won’t Defra test it again?
Defra said it would set a dangerous precedent where all farmers demand that their animals be retested after testing positive for TB.
Have other alpacas been tested?
The alpacas that made the trip from New Zealand with Geronimo were all tested and returned negative results. Geronimo is isolated with five other alpacas. None have been tested and Defra refused to allow it.
She said: “The police and officials could come without telling me, come up with a gunman, break in and shoot him. I hope they don’t send anyone here to shoot him. I cannot stand idly by and let my animal get killed.
“I am ready to stand in the way of any armed man who comes to destroy Geronimo. I’ll die before they do anything to him.
“I feel like it’s just minute by minute and I can’t even look at the clock. “
She added that she had considered asking her own vets to slaughter Geronimo, but that they “don’t feel safe coming in to euthanize him now because they fear animal rights activists will target them” . Famous activists, including actress Joanna Lumley and television wildlife expert Chris Packham, have backed her call for clemency.
Miss Macdonald had previously called on the Prime Minister to intervene with a petition attracting more than 5,000 signatures. She said: “We are asking Boris Johnson to step in to fix this problem and stop the cull order.
“The whole industry is up because this is really the senseless destruction of an innocent animal.
“They have a choice here. They don’t have to kill him – they could at least test him first. It appeared that Geronimo had tested negative four times in New Zealand.
Defra officials were forced to defend the tests they used on Geronimo, which had never been tested for their accuracy in detecting bovine tuberculosis in alpacas. Miss Macdonald said: ‘We believe Defra knows this was a false positive as they have not contacted New Zealand or other owners about a potential outbreak.
“The decision making around them to test Geronimo again was the start of their behavior of covering things up. I feel frustrated, angry and cheated. There is a total lack of transparency. She said: “I just want him to be properly tested with an approved test and then if he were to test positive I would of course take it down. They make me go through hell.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We are sympathetic to Miss Macdonald’s situation – just as we are to anyone who has animals affected by this terrible disease. ”
He stressed that the test results and options for Geronimo had been “very carefully considered” by experts and had passed “a thorough legal review”.
Famous activists including actress Joanna Lumley and TV wildlife expert Chris Packham have backed her call for mercy