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Geronimo the alpaca has been executed after Defra officials today seized the animal and drove him away from his Gloucestershire farm just days before the destruction warrant expired, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.   

Police clashed with animal rights protesters defending the alpaca at the farm in Wickwar this morning as more than 30 uniformed officers and Defra officials tied a rope around Geronimo before dragging him to a trailer and driving him away for destruction. 

Defra said the alpaca was euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency in order to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis after it twice tested positive for it – results which owner Helen Macdonald, a veterinary nurse, insists are false.

Web cam footage showed Geronimo make a break for freedom from his ‘captors’ and run into a field with other alpacas. Its supporters – the ‘Alpaca Angels’, who have kept watch over the stud – previously vowed to thwart the executioners by using deploy alpacas.  

Geronimo has been in isolation, but four similar-looking alpacas are in an adjacent field with an open gate in between. Today, several officials followed the alpaca carrying rope and chased the pack around the meadow. Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort. 

Supporters had been camping out at the farm to try to prevent officials arriving to destroy Geronimo and some were seen talking to police as the animal was removed. One woman was arrested after spraying officers with a water pistol, but was quickly de-arrested. Others sobbed after Geronimo was rounded up and driven away, and accused Defra of breaking the law.

Miss Macdonald, who previously vowed to stand in front of a marksman to protect him, was nowhere to be seen as the alpaca was taken away. She claimed she had been ‘duped’ by the Government and had expected Defra vets to give Geronimo a stay of execution. But when police arrived, Miss Macdonald said she had no choice but to leave as she ‘would have been arrested for obstruction’.

She also claimed that Defra ‘will try and fudge the post-mortem’, calling it a ‘complete set-up’. 

Miss Macdonald insists the Enferplex test is flawed and says Geronimo twice tested positive because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin – a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria. She has received support from around the world, with more than 140,000 people signing a petition against Geronimo’s destruction. 

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

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. The Government said 27,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2020 to curb the spread of the disease.

Geronimo the alpaca has been executed after Defra officials today seized the animal and drove him away from his Gloucestershire farm just days before the destruction warrant expired

Geronimo the alpaca has been executed after Defra officials today seized the animal and drove him away from his Gloucestershire farm just days before the destruction warrant expired

Geronimo the alpaca has been executed after Defra officials today seized the animal and drove him away from his Gloucestershire farm just days before the destruction warrant expired 

Police clashed with animal rights protesters defending Geronimo the alpaca this morning

Police clashed with animal rights protesters defending Geronimo the alpaca this morning

Police clashed with animal rights protesters defending Geronimo the alpaca this morning

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

The alpaca has been on a 'death sentence' for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive twice for bovine tuberculosis

The alpaca has been on a 'death sentence' for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive twice for bovine tuberculosis

The alpaca has been on a ‘death sentence’ for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive twice for bovine tuberculosis

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am and tying a rope around Geronimo

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am and tying a rope around Geronimo

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am and tying a rope around Geronimo

Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Today, several officials followed the alpaca carrying rope and chased the pack around the meadow. Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Geronimo can be seen fighting against Defra officials as they attempt to take him away to be destroyed

Geronimo can be seen fighting against Defra officials as they attempt to take him away to be destroyed

Geronimo can be seen fighting against Defra officials as they attempt to take him away to be destroyed

Today, several officials followed the alpaca carrying rope and chased the pack around the meadow. Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Today, several officials followed the alpaca carrying rope and chased the pack around the meadow. Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Today, several officials followed the alpaca carrying rope and chased the pack around the meadow. Geronimo was then lead back into his barn before he was taken into a horsebox and driven away under police escort

Three people dressed in blue overalls, masks and goggles and who arrived with a police escort, look to identify Geronimo

Three people dressed in blue overalls, masks and goggles and who arrived with a police escort, look to identify Geronimo

Three people dressed in blue overalls, masks and goggles and who arrived with a police escort, look to identify Geronimo 

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar this morning, and tying rope around the animal

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar this morning, and tying rope around the animal

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar this morning, and tying rope around the animal

Web cam footage showed Geronimo make a break for freedom from his 'captors' and run into a field with other alpacas

Web cam footage showed Geronimo make a break for freedom from his 'captors' and run into a field with other alpacas

Web cam footage showed Geronimo make a break for freedom from his ‘captors’ and run into a field with other alpacas

Helen Macdonald, 50, called on the Government to allow Geronimo the alpaca to be tested for TB for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease

Helen Macdonald, 50, called on the Government to allow Geronimo the alpaca to be tested for TB for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease

Helen Macdonald, 50, called on the Government to allow Geronimo the alpaca to be tested for TB for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease

Pen Farthing's friend Dominic Dyer, an animal rights campaigner, tweeted: 'My thoughts are with Helen Macdonald one of the most bravest & courageous people I know that fought a David & Goliath battle with Defra to save the life of her precious Geronimo'

Pen Farthing's friend Dominic Dyer, an animal rights campaigner, tweeted: 'My thoughts are with Helen Macdonald one of the most bravest & courageous people I know that fought a David & Goliath battle with Defra to save the life of her precious Geronimo'

Pen Farthing’s friend Dominic Dyer, an animal rights campaigner, tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with Helen Macdonald one of the most bravest & courageous people I know that fought a David & Goliath battle with Defra to save the life of her precious Geronimo’

Timeline: Geronimo the alpaca’s four-year struggle to survive

2017

– Geronimo is brought to England from New Zealand in August 2017 by his owner, veterinary nurse Helen Macdonald.

– He tests positive for bovine tuberculosis twice in August and November, and is put into isolation away from the rest of the herd at the farm in Wickwar. 

2018

– The Government applies for a court order in July to have Geronimo destroyed. The alpaca is given a stay of execution, with a deadline of the end of August for his slaughter.

– Miss Macdonald seeks a judicial review claiming new evidence shows the animal is healthy – marking the start of a series of lengthy legal battles.

– In November, Miss Macdonald wins the right to a review at the High Court.

2019 

– In March, a hearing gets underway and Miss Macdonald claims Government experts relied on ‘flawed science’. The case dismissed in July. 

2021

– In May, a district court judge orders an execution warrant.

– Miss Macdonald starts an appeal and an order is made preventing Geronimo’s destruction pending the application.

– She takes out an emergency injunction to delay a warrant to cull the animal before an an appeal hearing on July 29.  

– The case is again dismissed. A judge agrees to delay the start of a second execution warrant until August 5, later extended to September 4.

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Pen Farthing’s friend Dominic Dyer, an animal rights campaigner, tweeted: ‘My thoughts are with Helen Macdonald one of the most bravest & courageous people I know that fought a David & Goliath battle with Defra to save the life of her precious Geronimo’.

Downing Street has expressed sympathy for Miss Macdonald, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying: ‘It’s obviously highly distressing for someone to lose animals to TB and that’s a situation that farmers sadly have to face.

‘Our sympathies are with Ms Macdonald and any others that are affected by this terrible disease.’

In a statement, 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.’ 

The destruction warrant was valid until Saturday, September 4 and Miss Macdonald had previously called on Environment Secretary George Eustice to allow Geronimo to be tested for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease. 

An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said: ‘We can confirm officers are in attendance at a farm in the Wickwar area of South Gloucestershire this morning to support the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), who are executing a court warrant.

‘We’ll always support our partner agencies to carry out their lawful duties and our role is to prevent a breach of the peace and to ensure public safety is protected.’  

A Defra spokesman refused to comment on ‘operational matters’ when approached by MailOnline, but said in a statement: ‘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 £100million every year. 

‘Therefore, while nobody wants to cull animals, we need to do everything we can to tackle this disease, stop it spreading and to protect the livelihoods of those affected.’

Miss Macdonald said: ‘I fled, if I had stayed there they would have arrested me for obstruction. That would have played into their hands because I wouldn’t have been able to keep fighting for him. They took him alive – we’ve been totally duped. It’s an outrage.’

‘We don’t know where they’ve taken him but there are still a few hours to try to save his life. We have got to get this stopped.’ 

She sent a text message to reporters at the farm which said: ‘They took him alive, get after Defra’. Her Twitter account @alpacapower posted: ‘DEFRA have arrived! We are asking once again for an urgent meeting with George Eustice. Please don’t execute Geronimo.’  

Campaigner Graham Edwards, 54, said: ‘They have broken their own laws and protocols – if the animal has TB they are not allowed to move it. It should have been slaughtered here but they wouldn’t do it because there are cameras here to record everything that happened.’  

Mr Edwards, from Reading, has spent two weeks camping at the farm, said: ‘They came mob-handed – there were more than 30 police here. They pushed through a fence, they came to do a job and there was no stopping them. I was told the vets were Spanish – not even English.

‘It was supposed to have been put down here, not taken away. We didn’t expect them to take it away. They are a bunch of hypocrites – I’m gutted, we all are.’

More than a dozen leading vets called on the Government to halt the culling of Geronimo after questioning his tuberculosis diagnosis, and instead urged the animal to be studied for science.

The 13 vets – who include a former senior official at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – said they had ‘grave reservations’ about the two positive tests the animal returned in 2017 and they ‘may well represent a false positive’.   

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, talks to the media after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, talks to the media after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, talks to the media after the animal was taken away on a trailer to an undisclosed location

Officers screen workers who arrived with a police escort, as they identify Geronimo

Officers screen workers who arrived with a police escort, as they identify Geronimo

Officers screen workers who arrived with a police escort, as they identify Geronimo

Protestors were in tears after Geronimo was rounded up and driven away. They accused Defra of breaking the law by transporting the black alpaca away from the Gloucestershire farm

Protestors were in tears after Geronimo was rounded up and driven away. They accused Defra of breaking the law by transporting the black alpaca away from the Gloucestershire farm

Protestors were in tears after Geronimo was rounded up and driven away. They accused Defra of breaking the law by transporting the black alpaca away from the Gloucestershire farm

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am

Uniformed officers wearing facemasks could be seen speaking to three people dressed in blue overalls and goggles outside the farm in Wickwar at 10.45am

Three 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

Three 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

Three 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

Police have turned up to the Gloucestershire farm which is home to Geronimo the alpaca just days before the destruction warrant ends after the animal tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis

Police have turned up to the Gloucestershire farm which is home to Geronimo the alpaca just days before the destruction warrant ends after the animal tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis

Police have turned up to the Gloucestershire farm which is home to Geronimo the alpaca just days before the destruction warrant ends after the animal tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis 

A number of policemen arrive at the farm of Helen Macdonald, whose alpaca Geronimo is expected to be destroyed

A number of policemen arrive at the farm of Helen Macdonald, whose alpaca Geronimo is expected to be destroyed

A number of policemen arrive at the farm of Helen Macdonald, whose alpaca Geronimo is expected to be destroyed

Workers, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wotton-under-Edge

Workers, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wotton-under-Edge

Workers, who arrived with a police escort, surround Geronimo the Alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wotton-under-Edge

Geronimo has been on a 'death sentence' for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive for TB - tests which owner Helen Macdonald insists are false positives

Geronimo has been on a 'death sentence' for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive for TB - tests which owner Helen Macdonald insists are false positives

Geronimo has been on a ‘death sentence’ for months after the High Court ruled it must be destroyed for testing positive for TB – tests which owner Helen Macdonald insists are false positives

Among the signatories to the letter are Professor Ranald Munroe, former head of pathology for Defra’s Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Dr Iain McGill, veterinary scientific adviser to Ms Macdonald.

In the letter, they write: ‘It is our professional opinion that the diagnosis in Geronimo’s case is unsafe, and may well represent a false positive, due to the fact that Geronimo had been repeatedly ‘antibody boosted’ or primed – five times in his lifetime with four injections of bovine tuberculin and one of avian tuberculin in the run up to the final Enferplex blood test which confirmed the ‘positive’ diagnosis of ‘suspicion of disease’.’

They said Mr Eustice had the power to overturn Geronimo’s destruction warrant and order he be observed for scientific research.

‘We could learn a great deal from Geronimo were he to be compassionately studied, but very little from his death,’ they said. 

‘We believe Geronimo’s case shines a light on the shortcomings of the current bTB testing policy, and gives an opportunity for a comprehensive review of the bovine TB testing and control policy, based on science and for the health and wellbeing of farmers, cattle, alpacas, badgers, the environment and the public. 

‘Given the mental anguish that Helen MacDonald has had to endure these past four years, and the publicity surrounding the case, we would urge Secretary of State for Defra, George Eustice and his team to discuss matters with us and Ms MacDonald to find a way out of this impasse.’

Miss Macdonald had called for an urgent meeting with the Government, pleading: ‘We are requesting an urgent meeting with Environment Secretary George Eustice, and really hope to hear back from Defra.

‘It is naturally a terribly traumatic time for Geronimo and myself, and everyone else who has been supporting us over the last few weeks. But we remain confident that there are ways forward to save Geronimo, and that Defra will find a way to do the right thing.’

Last week, more than a dozen vets said they have ‘grave reservations’ about the two positive tests the eight-year-old animal returned in 2017 and that they ‘may well represent a false positive’. 

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

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

Supporters have also been camping out at her farm in case officials arrive to destroy him. They have been receiving regular deliveries of supplies from well-wishers, including tea bags, coffee, sugar, and vegan food.

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.

The Government insists that all the evidence on the animal’s condition has been ‘looked at very carefully’.

The veterinary nurse believes the two tests for bovine tuberculosis in 2017 returned false positives because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin - a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria

The veterinary nurse believes the two tests for bovine tuberculosis in 2017 returned false positives because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin - a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria

The veterinary nurse believes the two tests for bovine tuberculosis in 2017 returned false positives because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin – a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria

Source: Daily Mail UK

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