Geronimo the alpaca’s owner pleads with Boris Johnson for a reprieve

The owner of an alpaca which could be ‘slaughtered’ on Thursday has called on Boris Johnson to intervene to save the ‘perfectly healthy’ animal.

Helen Macdonald lost a High Court appeal last month to prevent her stud alpaca, Geronimo, from being killed after he tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The veterinary nurse, who breeds the species at her farm in south Gloucestershire, has been locked in a legal battle with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) since 2017.

Helen Macdonald has made an 11th-hour appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reprieve her pet alpaca, Geronimo, pictured left next to Ms Macdonald. Geronimo, who has tested positive twice to Bovine TB faces destruction following a High Court hearing

Helen Macdonald has made an 11th-hour appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reprieve her pet alpaca, Geronimo, pictured left next to Ms Macdonald. Geronimo, who has tested positive twice to Bovine TB faces destruction following a High Court hearing

Helen Macdonald has made an 11th-hour appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reprieve her pet alpaca, Geronimo, pictured left next to Ms Macdonald. Geronimo, who has tested positive twice to Bovine TB faces destruction following a High Court hearing 

The High Court upheld a decision that Geronimo, pictured, should be destroyed within the next 30 days

The High Court upheld a decision that Geronimo, pictured, should be destroyed within the next 30 days

The High Court upheld a decision that Geronimo, pictured, should be destroyed within the next 30 days

After losing her original High Court bid in 2019, a district judge signed a destruction order in May 2021 to allow the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to seize Geronimo

After losing her original High Court bid in 2019, a district judge signed a destruction order in May 2021 to allow the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to seize Geronimo

After losing her original High Court bid in 2019, a district judge signed a destruction order in May 2021 to allow the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to seize Geronimo

After losing her original High Court bid in 2019, a district judge signed a destruction order in May 2021 to allow the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to seize Geronimo.

Ms Macdonald’s most recent attempt to get a reprieve for the six-year-old was rejected by a judge, Mr Justice Griffiths, who said there was a need to protect against the ‘serious consequences’ of bTB.

The second warrant to be issued for the death of the alpaca from New Zealand is due to begin from tomorrow morning and is valid for 30 days.

Ms Macdonald has indicated that she is not willing to kill Geronimo herself, so Defra will have to contract someone to destroy the alpaca.  

More than 36,000 people have signed a petition calling on officials to reprieve Geronimo.  

Ms Macdonald has said the Prime Minister may be the only chance to ‘reverse the decision’.

‘At the moment I don’t know what else I can do.

‘They (Defra) won’t hear me,’ Ms Macdonald said.

‘We’re asking Boris Johnson to intervene to sort this out and stop the slaughter order.

‘The entire industry is up in arms because this really is the senseless destruction of an innocent animal,’ she added.

‘They have a choice here. They don’t have to kill him; they could at least test him first.’

Ms Macdonald claims Defra has ‘lied’ about the testing of Geronimo.

Ms Macdonald's legal team said Geronimo has shown no sign of symptoms and should be retested. But lawyers on behalf of the government insist a third test would be 'futile'

Ms Macdonald's legal team said Geronimo has shown no sign of symptoms and should be retested. But lawyers on behalf of the government insist a third test would be 'futile'

Ms Macdonald’s legal team said Geronimo has shown no sign of symptoms and should be retested. But lawyers on behalf of the government insist a third test would be ‘futile’

Her barrister Cathryn McGahey QC said the results of the positive tests were skewed after he had several quicker, but less accurate, skin tests for bTB, which the lawyer said were like the ‘bovine equivalent of a lateral flow test’.

Ms McGahey told the court that despite bTB being a disease which progresses swiftly Geronimo had shown ‘not a whisker of symptoms’ and should be tested again.

But Ned Westaway, for Apha, which is part of Defra, said a third test would be ‘futile’.

He added: ‘The disease can take years to progress and it is on that basis that we maintain our suspicion that Geronimo has bTB.’

Ms Macdonald said: ‘They have admitted in writing to doing that.

‘The Government knows what’s happened.

‘George Eustice knows they lied to cover up their incompetence.

‘Yet he’s sitting there doing nothing.

‘He’s ignored me for three years.

‘I just want him (Geronimo) to be properly tested, with an approved test, and then if he was to test positive, I’d of course agree to put him down.’

TV nature expert Chris Packham has supported the campaign to save Geronimo

TV nature expert Chris Packham has supported the campaign to save Geronimo

TV nature expert Chris Packham has supported the campaign to save Geronimo 

She has said there will likely be a stand-off between herself and the Defra officers if the warrant is acted upon this week.

However, Defra will have 30 days from the warrant’s start date to kill Geronimo.

‘It’s a really upsetting situation.

‘I don’t want Geronimo’s last moments to be of being caught by a man who will put a gun to his head before he’s shot, but then I don’t want to consent to having him euthanised.

‘That’s no choice at all,’ she said.

‘Asking me to do that to a healthy animal as a vet who has been saving lives for 30 years is the worst thing they can do to my mental health.

‘They are putting me through hell.’

Westminster insiders claim George Eustace, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is under intense political pressure to reprieve Geronimo, but such a decision would wreck the Government’s TB policy. 

Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham has been vocal in his support to save Geronimo and in a tweet on Monday called on Mr Eustice to stop the killing.

He wrote: ‘Geronimo will be killed on Thurs. If @alpacapower refuses they’ll use a warrant, bring the police and force entry to kill a beautiful animal which is not diseased. Like millions of others. FFS @MPGeorgeEustice get a grip please stop this.’

A crowdfunding page set up in July to help pay for legal fees has now raised almost £18,000.

A Defra spokesperson 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 TB causes devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities and that is why we need to do everything we can to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.’

Ms Macdonald has written a post asking for a reprieve for her alpaca, Geronimo

Ms Macdonald has written a post asking for a reprieve for her alpaca, Geronimo

Ms Macdonald has written a post asking for a reprieve for her alpaca, Geronimo 

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