Boris Johnson urged to save Geronimo the alpaca from ‘slaughter’ by desperate owner

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Geronimo the alpaca is due to be killed on Thursday after he tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis. (SWNS)
Geronimo the alpaca is due to be killed on Thursday after he tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis. (SWNS)

Boris Johnson has been urged to step in and halt the death of Geronimo the alpaca, who is due to be culled on Thursday.

Helen Macdonald lost a High Court appeal last month to prevent Geronimo from being killed after he tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The veterinary nurse, who breeds the species at her farm in south Gloucestershire, has been locked in a legal battle with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) since 2017.

The stud had tested negative for bovine TB in New Zealand but when Helen agreed to a voluntary test as part of national surveillance of the disease the result came back positive.

Boris Johnson has been urged to save Geronimo's life. (Getty)
Boris Johnson has been urged to save Geronimo's life. (Getty)
Geronimo's owner Helen Macdonald breeds alpacas at her farm in south Gloucestershire. (SWNS)
Geronimo's owner Helen Macdonald breeds alpacas at her farm in south Gloucestershire. (SWNS)

Defra decided to conduct a second test in November 2017, which also came back positive, and Geronimo was earmarked for slaughter.

Under the Animal Health Act 1981, Defra's secretary of state only needs to suspect the disease is present to order the slaughter of animals to limit its spread.

After losing her original High Court bid in 2019, a district judge signed a destruction order in May 2021 to allow the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to seize Geronimo.

Macdonald’s most recent attempt to get a reprieve for the six-year-old was rejected by a judge, Mr Justice Griffiths, who said there was a need to protect against the “serious consequences” of bTB.

The second warrant to be issued for the death of the alpaca from New Zealand is due to begin on 5 August.

Macdonald has now turned to the prime minister for help, saying he may be the only chance to “reverse the decision”.

Geronimo tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis. (SWNS)
Geronimo tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis. (SWNS)

She said: “At the moment I don’t know what else I can do. They (Defra) won’t hear me.

“We’re asking Boris Johnson to intervene to sort this out and stop the slaughter order.”

“The entire industry is up in arms because this really is the senseless destruction of an innocent animal,” she added.

“They have a choice here. They don’t have to kill him; they could at least test him first.”

A crowdfunding page set up in July to help pay for legal fees has now raised almost £18,000, while a petition to save Geronimo’s life has so far been signed by more than 7,500 people.

A petition to save Geronimo’s life has so far been signed by more than 7,500 people. (SWNS)
A petition to save Geronimo’s life has so far been signed by more than 7,500 people. (SWNS)

MPs have also stepped in to urge ministers to reverse the decision to kill Geronimo this week.

Tory backbencher Andrea Jenkyns has reportedly written to environment secretary George Eustice about the “troubling” case, telling him it is“highly unlikely that Geronimo has got TB”.

Jenkyns is said to have told Eustice that killing Geronimo “sadly appears to be a case of bureaucratic red tape” and urged him to “allow Geronimo to live a happy life”.

Macdonald claims Defra has “lied” about the testing of Geronimo.

Her barrister Cathryn McGahey QC said the results of the positive tests were skewed after he had several quicker, but less accurate, skin tests for bTB, which the lawyer said were like the “bovine equivalent of a lateral flow test”, and said Geronimo should be tested again.

But Ned Westaway, for Apha, which is part of Defra, said a third test would be “futile”.

EXETER, ENGLAND - JULY 02: George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, is shown around during his visit to the 125th Devon County Show at the Westpoint Arena and Showground in Clyst St Mary near Exeter on July 02, 2021 in Devon, England. Established in 1872 it has grown into one of the South West's biggest county shows. Although primarily an agricultural livestock and produce showcase, it is also seen as a barometer for the health of the whole agricultural industry in general. The Show organisers are ensuring it is a Covid Secure event and is being staged predominantly outdoors. Social distancing will be managed by a team of Covid Marshalls brought in specially for the event. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Environment secretary George Eustice has also been urged to rethink the decision to cull Geronimo. (Getty)

He added: “The disease can take years to progress and it is on that basis that we maintain our suspicion that Geronimo has bTB.”

Macdonald has said there will likely be a stand-off between herself and the Defra officers if the warrant is acted upon this week.

She said: “I don’t want Geronimo’s last moments to be of being caught by a man who will put a gun to his head before he’s shot, but then I don’t want to consent to having him euthanised.

“That’s no choice at all.”

Defra will have 30 days from the warrant’s start date to kill Geronimo.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Bovine TB causes devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities and that is why we need to do everything we can to reduce the risk of the disease spreading."

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