Owner of condemned alpaca Geronimo calls on Boris Johnson to intervene

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The owner of Geronimo the alpaca has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to speak to her to resolve the stand-off over the future of the animal.

Helen Macdonald said Environment Secretary George Eustice is refusing to talk to her and she instead called on the Prime Minister to intervene after the High Court granted a destruction order.

Geronimo has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis but Ms Macdonald believes the tests are returning false positives.

The destruction warrant is valid until September 4 and Ms Macdonald wants the Government to allow Geronimo to be tested for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease.

Ms Macdonald and her supporters remain on “high alert” at her farm in Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, after a 24-hour reprieve expired.

After losing her latest High Court battle earlier this week to save the life of Geronimo, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials told Ms Macdonald nothing would be done before 5pm on August 20.

“We’re waiting for George Eustice to pick up the phone and speak to me and resolve this,” Ms Macdonald told the PA news agency.

“We haven’t heard anything from Defra or anyone and we’re still asking for valid testing four years after they bungled the last one, or to keep Geronimo in isolation for research purposes, which is what we’ve been doing for four years.”

Helen Macdonald in the bio-secure pen with Geronimo the alpaca
Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald wants further tests on him to be carried out (Ben Birchall/PA)

Ms Macdonald said that if Defra officials do destroy Geronimo, the “senseless killing” will take place “in front of a worldwide population”.

She added: “This is all avoidable and we need to look at how you treat people in the 21st century.

“It just seems a bit harsh to leave me hanging here with guns pointing at my head when George Eustice hasn’t spoken to me in three years.

“It’s the uncertainty, it’s the anxiety and stress, not sleeping very well and it’s just avoidable.

“At the end of the day, if George Eustice doesn’t want to talk to me then Boris Johnson can talk to me.

“Can we just get an end to this please, Boris and Mr Eustice?”

Geronimo
Geronimo awaits his fate in isolation in Gloucestershire (Jacob King/PA)

Ms Macdonald, a veterinary nurse, added: “I can’t explain what it’s like and why this story is so massive.

“They are just ignoring me. It’s not about Geronimo anymore – it’s about TB policy in general.

“If they kill him, it’s not going to change anything because everyone knows what’s been going on. At least nine camelids have been killed the same way as they intend to kill him.”

Ms Macdonald, who imported Geronimo from New Zealand, has received an outpouring of support from the public, with more than 130,000 people signing a petition calling on the Prime Minister to halt the killing.

Demonstrators outside Defra headquarters in central London during a protest march
Demonstrators outside Defra headquarters in central London (Hollie Adams/PA)

On Wednesday, a High Court judge refused her lawyer’s application for a temporary injunction to stop the destruction order and reopen the case.

Ms Macdonald said that when Defra officials do attend her farm to euthanise Geronimo, she will not break the law.

At her farm, friends, family and supporters have joined her to protest against Geronimo’s impending fate.

As well as alpacas, badgers have been a victim of the fight against bovine TB, with mass culling employed to stop the spread since 2013, sparking a huge public backlash.

Last week, the Government insisted all the evidence on the Geronimo’s condition had 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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