Geronimo the alpaca destroyed after end of public legal battle against bovine tuberculosis in UK

British government vets have slaughtered Geronimo, an alpaca with bovine tuberculosis, after a long-running case that made international headlines and pitted animal activists against the state.

Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald had argued that government testing produced false positives, rallying a large base of supporters to try to save the animal.

Several vets supported her case, but a High Court judge dismissed Ms Macdonald’s request for a temporary injunction to end the killing order.

Veterinary staff in blue overalls, masks and goggles, supported by police, arrived at the West England farm where the animal lived and pulled Geronimo out of his pen.

The scene was seen by animal rights activists and journalists who had camped out on the farm, vowing to stop the destruction of the alpaca.

The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs later confirmed that the animal had been euthanized and that a post-mortem examination would be carried out.

Geronimo was sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis.

Ms Macdonald, who imported Geronimo from New Zealand in 2017, said the destruction of the animal was “barbaric” and unscientific.

Helen Macdonald, owner of Geronimo, says the tests were false positives and wanted more testing done before authorities made a final decision. (

AP: Ben Birchall

)

“The government has refused to make a commitment in good faith,” Macdonald said.

“We now know that they’ve been shackling us since last week, putting us off by saying people were on vacation and would respond to us this week.

Ms Macdonald said the type of bovine tuberculosis test used is fundamentally flawed, claiming that injections of tuberculin, a purified protein derivative of the bovine tuberculosis bacteria used to test the immune response of animals, can produce false positive results. .

Bovine tuberculosis can devastate cattle herds and affect farm incomes.

Britain has slaughtered animals to stop its spread for a decade, but the practice remains controversial.

The government said 27,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2020 to curb the spread of the disease.

UK chief veterinarian Christine Middlemiss said she sympathizes with affected owners but the threat of the disease must be eliminated.

“It is a terribly sad situation and our sympathies remain with all those affected by this devastating disease,” she said.

“But we need to follow the scientific evidence and slaughter animals that have tested positive for tuberculosis to minimize the spread of this insidious disease and ultimately eradicate the biggest threat to animal health in this country.”

Nearly 142,000 people have signed a petition in favor of Geronimo, claiming that the government is “killing healthy alpacas without valid science” and asking for a stay of the animal.

People with placards and placards in favor of Geronimo.
Ms. Macdonald received a wave of public support. (

AP: Matt Dunham

)

Earlier in August, activists converged on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s central office in London and urged him to save the doomed alpaca.

George Eustice, Environment Secretary and former farmer, said he also sympathizes with Ms Macdonald.

But he maintained that the tests were “highly specific and reliable” and that Geronimo should be cracked down to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said his sympathies were with Ms Macdonald and other pet owners facing the “terrible disease”.

A post-mortem examination will now be performed by veterinary pathologists at APHA, followed by bacteriological culture of selected tissue samples, which can take up to three months, the government said.

Geronimo the alpaca in an enclosure
Geronimo first rose to prominence in 2018, but the campaign to spare him ultimately failed.(

AP: Andrew Matthews

)

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