Alpaca experts condemn Government claims over Geronimo’s welfare

Geronimo the Alpaca
Geronimo the Alpaca
Jacob King
Gareth Milner

By Gareth Milner

Published: 05/09/2021

- 10:08

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 11:19

The British Alpaca Society wrote a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Experts are vowing to take further action over the way Geronimo the alpaca was dragged from his pen and bundled into the back of a horse box to be driven away and killed by Government vets.

The British Alpaca Society wrote a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Environment Secretary George Eustice and various Government officials over the way the animal was removed from his owner’s farm.

Police officers and staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) arrived at Helen Macdonald’s farm near Wickwar in South Gloucestershire on August 31.

Geronimo, who had twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, was tied with white rope before being scanned for a microchip and then pulled through a field to a waiting trailer.

Less than 90 minutes after leaving the property, Defra confirmed the animal had been euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha).

Sue Loach, chairwoman of the British Alpaca Society, condemned the way Geronimo was removed from his pen, “dragging him kicking and screaming”, and then left tethered, standing up in the back of a trailer.

She said she has now received an unsigned reply from Apha, which stated: “Removal operations were carefully planned, conducted and included consideration of Geronimo’s welfare.

“Geronimo was transported under veterinary supervision. Veterinary surgeons were present at the loading and the unloading as well as travelling behind the trailer during its journey.

“We can assure you that Geronimo arrived at the destination in the same condition as when he left the farm, was unloaded and then euthanised in accordance with our welfare procedures.

“This was a difficult and high-pressure situation for all involved. We can assure you that our staff did all in their power to protect Geronimo’s welfare and treat him with dignity.”

Ms Loach said: “Apha clearly don’t seem to have witnessed the same events that I did.

“Apha claim to have carefully planned a removal operation with consideration for Geronimo’s welfare and yet they failed to correctly put a halter on him, and then tied him up in a dangerous manner in the trailer.

“Alpacas sit when travelling and the lead rope length would not allow that to happen.”

Ms Loach said the veterinary surgeons travelling in a vehicle behind the trailer “were in no position to help during travel so could have no impact on welfare”.

She added: “How can they claim there was protection of welfare? Apha should be in doubt the British Alpaca Society will not let this appalling unprofessionalism go unchallenged and further action will be taken.”

Ms Macdonald was campaigning for the destruction to be halted after insisting the bovine tuberculosis tests previously carried out had returned false positives.

She had wanted Geronimo to be tested for a third time or allowed to live to aid research into the disease.

The veterinary nurse argued that the Enferplex test was fundamentally flawed and said the alpaca tested positive because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin – a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria.

“I want the vets concerned in Tuesday’s avoidable cruelty disciplined according to the evidence from the British Alpaca Society statement,” Ms Macdonald said.

“They could have brought a head collar or used his own, which was in the barn. Alpacas should never be tied up and they should know that.

“They should have sent competent, caring vets who understand and are confident in handling alpacas.

“Truly heartbroken that members of my own profession could let us down in the most cruel way possible.”

A protest outside Defra HQ in central London is planned for Wednesday.

More than 27,000 cattle were slaughtered last year to curb the spread of the infectious disease, Defra added.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “This is a terribly sad situation and our sympathies remain with all those affected by this devastating disease.”

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