Geronimo’s owner accuses Government of cover-up

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

The owner of Geronimo the alpaca has accused the Government of “hiding the truth” over the killing of the animal.

Helen Macdonald said she had been denied knowledge of when, where and how Geronimo died – and had been refused an independent post-mortem examination.

The alpaca had been euthanised after police officers and staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) arrived at Ms Macdonald’s farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire on August 31.

Workers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency put a rope on Geronimo and take him away to be euthanised (Claire Hayhurst/PA) (PA Wire)
Workers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency put a rope on Geronimo and take him away to be euthanised (Claire Hayhurst/PA) (PA Wire)

Less than 90 minutes after leaving the property, Defra confirmed the animal – who had twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis – had been euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha).

“I am still in shock at the needless and horrific torture of Geronimo by Apha officials,” Ms Macdonald said.

“Their vets chose to treat him in an unnecessarily brutal way by not using an alpaca head collar, as the world saw.

“They dragged and suffocated him before tying him up using a short rope in the horse box, leaving him alone and terrified.

“There was absolutely no compassion or duty of care shown. This has been my experience for four years.

“The bullying and heavy handed tactics of Defra has astounded me.”

Helen Macdonald had led a four-year campaign to stop Geronimo from being culled (Andrew Matthews/PA). (PA Wire)
Helen Macdonald had led a four-year campaign to stop Geronimo from being culled (Andrew Matthews/PA). (PA Wire)

Ms Macdonald was campaigning for the destruction to be halted after insisting the bovine tuberculosis tests previously carried out returned false positives.

She had wanted him to be tested for a third time or allowed to live to aid research into the disease.

The veterinary nurse argued the Enferplex test was fundamentally flawed and said Geronimo tested positive because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin – a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria.

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“Instead, they chose to threaten and abuse me for asking a fair question. When they could not enforce their will on me, they turned it on Geronimo in the cruellest way possible,” she said.

“They absolutely refused to consider positive solutions that were consistently presented to them. Is this what our Government stands for?

“The Government are still refusing to be honest and transparent, denying me the right to know when, where and how Geronimo died and refusing to allow an independent post-mortem examination.

“We live in a democracy where information should be freely available, and the Government should be willing to listen to other points of view and recommendations.

“They are using their considerable powers to hide the truth.”

Helen Macdonald speaks to the media after Geronimo was taken from her farm and killed (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)
Helen Macdonald speaks to the media after Geronimo was taken from her farm and killed (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

A protest outside Defra HQ in central London is planned for Wednesday.

Speakers at the protest will include Ms Macdonald, vet Dr Iain McGill, animal welfare campaigner and writer Dominic Dyer and broadcaster and journalist Kevin O’Sullivan

More than 27,000 cattle were slaughtered last year to curb the spread of the infectious disease, Defra said.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “This is a terribly sad situation and our sympathies remain with all those affected by this devastating disease.

“No-one wants to have to cull infected animals if it can be avoided, but we need to follow the scientific evidence and cull animals that have tested positive for bTB to minimise spread of this insidious disease and ultimately eradicate the biggest threat to animal health in this country.

“Not only is this essential to protect the livelihoods of our farming industry and rural communities, but it is also necessary to avoid more TB cases in humans.”

Sue Loach, chair of the British Alpaca Society, said Apha had sent her a letter replying to her complaint about how the animal was removed from the farm.

Ms Loach said the letter stated: “Removal operations were carefully planned, conducted and included consideration of Geronimo’s welfare.

“Geronimo was transported under veterinary supervision. Veterinary surgeons were present at the loading and the unloading as well as travelling behind the trailer during its journey.

“We can assure you that Geronimo arrived at the destination in the same condition as when he left the farm, was unloaded and then euthanised in accordance with our welfare procedures.

“This was a difficult and high-pressure situation for all involved. We can assure you that our staff did all in their power to protect Geronimo’s welfare and treat him with dignity.”

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