Geronimo did NOT have Bovine Tuberculosis, claims owner

A fresh row broke out today over whether Geronimo had bovine tuberculosis after the alpaca’s owner claimed the initial findings of the post-mortem showed no signs of the disease – but the Government insisted this was wrong.

Eight days after the animal was removed from veterinary nurse Helen Macdonald’s farm near Wickwar in South Gloucestershire on August 31, conflicting conclusions from the initial examination have been presented by both sides.

Ms Macdonald said the preliminary post-mortem findings were ‘negative for visible lesions typical of bovine tuberculosis’, but in stark contrast the Chief Veterinary Officer said that ‘a number of TB-like lesions were found’.

Today, Ms MacDonald called on Environment Secretary George Eustice to resign as she gathered with supporters outside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs building in London, chanting: ‘Shame on Defra’.

Ms Macdonald received a copy of the preliminary findings of the examination from the Government’s Legal Department after requesting the paperwork, and it was then reviewed by veterinary surgeons supporting her. 

Helen Macdonald and Geronimo the alpaca at her farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire

Helen Macdonald and Geronimo the alpaca at her farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire

Helen Macdonald and Geronimo the alpaca at her farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire

Helen Macdonald (centre),hold a protest outside the offices of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in central London this afternoon

Helen Macdonald (centre),hold a protest outside the offices of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in central London this afternoon

Helen Macdonald (centre), owner of Geronimo the alpaca, and other protesters outside the offices of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London this afternoon

Surrounded by her supporters this afternoon amid a vocal demonstration, Ms Macdonald called on Environment Secretary George Eustice to resign.

In a statement, her lawyers said: ‘As reviewed by Dr Iain McGill and Dr Bob Broadbent, the preliminary gross post-mortem findings are negative for visible lesions typical of Bovine Tuberculosis.

‘For clarity there are no white or cream caseous, enlarged abscesses typical for bTB in alpacas whether in the lungs, bronchial, mediastinal or retropharyngeal lymph nodes.

‘Ms Macdonald has formally requested the full findings of the post-mortem report ‘Form TB50’, together with all relevant documents and the results of further tests on tissue samples, blood, serum or plasma taken or obtained from Geronimo, along with any further test results including Enferplex, Idexx, Actiphage and any other PCR or interferon gamma tests performed by Defra, along with the results of histopathogical examination.

‘She has further requested that both fresh, frozen and formalin fixed tissue and fluid samples be preserved and provided to an independent expert to carry out further tests.’

But Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said today: ‘We have completed the initial post-mortem examination of Geronimo.

‘A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice these are now undergoing further investigation.

‘These tests include the developing of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months – we would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year.’ 

PABestThree people, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, before the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday August 31, 2021. PA Photo. Geronimo has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and, as a result and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ordered his destruction. See PA story ANIMALS Geronimo. Photo credit should read: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire

PABestThree people, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, before the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday August 31, 2021. PA Photo. Geronimo has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis and, as a result and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ordered his destruction. See PA story ANIMALS Geronimo. Photo credit should read: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire

Three people, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Gloucestershire before the animal was taken away on a trailer on August 31

Geronimo is taken away from Ms Macdonald's farm on August 31 before being put down

Geronimo is taken away from Ms Macdonald's farm on August 31 before being put down

Geronimo is taken away from Ms Macdonald’s farm on August 31 before being put down

Speaking at the protest today, Ms Macdonald said: ‘We urge the Government to act with compassion and cooperation, which to date has been severely lacking, creating deep and unnecessary distress to Geronimo. We call on the secretary of state to tender his resignation immediately.’

Ms Macdonald also vowed to fight for animal rights in ‘honour’ of Geronimo. She said: ‘Geronimo was a blessing in my life. He touched the world. He was loved and precious to very many people and he lives on.

‘I miss him. But I will do him the honour of fighting for him and making sure his legacy lives on for all animals.’

Yesterday, Ms Macdonald accused the Government of ‘hiding the truth’ over the killing of the animal just over a week ago.

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

The alpaca was euthanised after police officers and staff from Defra arrived at Ms Macdonald’s farm on August 31. 








Geronimo's owner Helen Macdonald speaks on her phone after he was removed on August 31

Geronimo's owner Helen Macdonald speaks on her phone after he was removed on August 31

Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald speaks on her phone after he was removed on August 31

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).

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.

Speakers at the protest at Defra’s headquarters today will also include 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. 

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