Owner of 'death row' alpaca given 'fresh hope' he can be saved after execution temporarily halted

·3-min read
Helen Macdonald with Geronimo. (SWNS)
Helen Macdonald with Geronimo. (SWNS)

The owner of a "death row" alpaca said she has been given "fresh hope" he will be spared after winning a temporary stay of execution.

Authorities have ordered Geronimo be put down after he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis four years ago.

His owner Helen Macdonald, 50, has argued that the results were a "false positive" and that Geronimo is healthy. 

Read: 'I don't find it offensive': Pupil defends Kate Clanchy amid memoir race row

The eight-year-old alpaca has been kept in isolation at Macdonald's farm in Wickwar, Gloucestershire, ever since he was imported from New Zealand in 2017.

Geronimo had tested negative for the disease in New Zealand but then twice tested positive on arrival in England.

Geronimo the alpaca who has been sentenced to death. (SWNS)
Geronimo the alpaca who has been sentenced to death. (SWNS)

Last week, Macdonald lost a £50,000 legal battle with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) so that the government would be able to euthanise the alpaca within 30 days from 5 August.

But the High Court has agreed to accept a judicial review application over the issue, made on the basis of "material non-disclosure" by the government.

This was believed to be in relation to withheld revelations that other animals put down by the government had tested negative for TB at postmortem.

Macdonald has since been informed nothing can happen to Geronimo until Monday at 4pm at the earliest.

She said she had finally been able to sleep for the first time since the "kill order" was granted.

Macdonald said she had feared Defra representatives may have tried to come this weekend to euthanise what she maintains is a perfectly healthy animal.

Watch: Putting down Geronimo is the right decision, cabinet minister says

She said the stay of execution was a welcome break to "recharge everyone's batteries for the fight ahead".

She added: "It has been a massive relief. I posted a statement on social media and you could almost feel a collective sigh of relief. There were messages going everywhere.

"It is important to have a break and now things have calmed down I can finally get some sleep. It has been a very stressful eight days – and we are not even half way through the window yet.

"But we can now relax until at least Monday. If nothing happens before 4pm then we will start over again."

Helen Macdonald has been fighting to save Geronimo (SWNS)
Macdonald has been fighting to save Geronimo (SWNS)

Macdonald said the judicial review was sought due to "non disclosure."

"It came to light in the media that other animals have been killed on the same basis as Geronimo who have later had a postmortem and found no disease was found. This is something the government should have told us when we raised the issue.

"For me, I feel like I have been singled out for four years and if I had been informed of this we could have sorted this problem out years ago.

"This has definitely given me fresh hope we can save Geronimo. This confirmed what we already knew but had never been able to substantiate it before."

The alpaca tested positive to TB (SWNS)
The alpaca tested positive to TB (SWNS)

The fate of Geronimo has prompted a huge public response and campaign to save him.

Last week, a webcam installed at her farm has broadcast a live stream of Geronimo in his pen as he awaits his fate.

It also ensures that any armed official who arrives to shoot the animal would have to do so on a live feed.

Macdonald said: "The live feed of him has been brilliant. People are watching it all the time and it is really helping a lot of people stay in touch with Geronimo and what he is up to."

Watch: Alpacas to join march on Downing Street in bid to save Geronimo

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