Geronimo the alpaca’s supporters gather to ‘defend him’ from being killed by government

·3-min read
Supporters of Geronimo the alpaca outside Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire (PA)
Supporters of Geronimo the alpaca outside Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire (PA)

Supporters of Geronimo the alpaca gathered outside the entrance to his pen on Thursday to “defend him” from being killed by the government.

His owner Helen MacDonald was given the deadline of 4.30pm on Thursday to euthanise the animal, after she lost a last-ditch High Court bid to save his life.

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Ms MacDonald said she is “not prepared to do that” and could now face a dramatic showdown with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) if it comes to carry out the destruction.

“They have given me until 4.30pm to kill him myself and get my vet to euthanise him”, she said. “I’m not prepared to do that, he’s a healthy animal.

Helen Macdonald with Geronimo the alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm (PA Wire)
Helen Macdonald with Geronimo the alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm (PA Wire)

“As a registered veterinary nurse, it goes against everything I know, believe and am signed up to.”

But more than an hour after the stay of execution deadline passed, no Defra officials had attempted to enter the pen and kill Geronimo.

Ms MacDonald said supporters are at her farm in Wickwar, South Gloucestershire to offer resistance - with more on the way - and Geronimo is being filmed around the clock on an ‘alpaca cam’ livestream.

“If they turn up, we will do what we said we were going to do, which is defend ourselves to the best of our ability without breaking the law,” she said.

“If they want to shoot a healthy alpaca in front of the world, good luck to them, but we will do our best to defend him.”

Supporters no longer expect Defra to arrive on Thursday in the gaze of media gathered at the farm and believe it is more likely they will attempt to gain entry early Friday morning, it has been reported.

Geronimo the alpaca (PA)
Geronimo the alpaca (PA)

Geronimo, who was imported to the UK from New Zealand, has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and is under threat of a destruction order.

Ms Macdonald believes the tests are returning false positives and has been refused permission to carry out a third test.

She called on the government to “sort it like grown-ups”, while more than 130,000 people have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to halt the killing.

Meanwhile, vet Iain McGill told The Independent: “We’ve got lots of data from alpacas that have been killed after having false positives and they haven’t got TB at all at post-mortem.”

Earlier this month, Ms Macdonald lost her final appeal to save Geronimo and a warrant for his destruction was signed.

Last night, she lost a last-ditch bid for a temporary injunction as Mrs Justice Stacey ruled at the High Court that there was “no prospect” of Ms Macdonald succeeding in reopening the previous ruling.

The government was not ordered to disclose further material about tests on other camelids, and it has insisted the evidence on Geronimo’s condition has 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.

“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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