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An alpaca at the centre of a legal fight after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis has been put down by government vets, a statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed.
“bTB-positive alpaca known as ‘Geronimo’ has been euthanised to prevent the spread of disease,” it said, before adding that staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carried out the procedure.
It comes a short time after officials from Defra, accompanied by Avon and Somerset Police, arrived at a farm in Wickwar, near Bristol, to take the animal away.
After dramatic scenes in which he was seen running away from officers, Geronimo was loaded into a trailer and taken away.
Geronimo’s owner, Helen Macdonald, tweeted this morning: “DEFRA have arrived! We are asking once again for an urgent meeting with George Eustice. Please don’t execute Geronimo.”
The animal’s death was ordered after multiple positive bTb tests, sparking Ms Macdonald to launch various failed legal proceedings.
‘Biggest mistake Defra has ever made,’ warns vet
Veterinary surgeon Dr Iain McGill has condemned the action taken by government officials to kill Geronimo the alpaca, predicting it will be the “biggest PR disaster Defra has ever made”.
Dr McGill, who has risen to prominence in recent weeks for his work campaigning for the safe return of animals and veterinary staff from Afghanistan, said he was shocked by the timing of the decision.
“While I’m working to get vulnerable vets and vet nurses out of Afghanistan, who the government left behind, Defra in its wisdom has decided it’s a really good day to kill the most famous animal in the world,” he said in video shared to Twitter.
He added: “It’s going to be the biggest PR disaster Defra has already made, as if there wasn’t enough PR disasters coming out of Afghanistan already.”
Geronimo has been killed by government vets
Geronimo the alpaca has been removed from his farm in Gloucestershire and killed as vets carried out a warrant issued by a court following two positive tests for bovine tuberculosis, Defra said.
Uniformed police helped officials wearing masks and blue overalls take the animal from his pen at the farm in Wickwar, watched by the media and campaigners.
“The infected animal was moved from the premises and euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) as a necessary measure to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis,” the department said in a statement.
Holly Bancroft reports:
‘This is a terribly sad situation’ says Defra chief vet
PM’s spokesperson sends ‘sympathies’ to Geronimo owner
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson spoke very briefly about the passing of Geronimo this morning.
“It’s obviously highly distressing for someone to lose animals to TB and that’s a situation that farmers sadly have to face,” they told reporters.
“Our sympathies are with Ms Macdonald and any others that are affected by this terrible disease.”
Geronimo has officially been euthanised, Defra confirms
Geronimo the alpaca has been euthanised to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, the government has confirmed.
“bTB-positive alpaca known as ‘Geronimo’ has been euthanised to prevent the spread of disease,” a statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
The infected animal was moved from the premises and euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) as a necessary measure to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), it 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.
“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.”
She added: “Not only is this essential to protect the livelihoods of our farming industry and rural communities, but it is also necessary avoid more TB cases in humans.”
Alpaca Geronimo faces execution as police arrive at farm
Here’s a bit of context. Geronimo is under orders to be killed because he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis four years ago. But Helen Macdonald, his owner, argues that the testing is flawed and that her animal is healthy.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was granted a warrant to euthanise the alpaca within 30 days from 5 August, leaving officials with four days left to execute Geronimo.
Police could been seen arriving with a horse-box style vehicle this morning and webcam footage showed Geronimo making a break for freedom and running into a field to join his fellow alpacas.
Several officers then followed him with a rope, chased the pack around the meadow, and finally led Geronimo back into his barn.
Ms Helen Macdonald toldThe Independent on Monday: “I’ve been made an example of and it’s the most cruel horrible thing you could do. I’m sitting here waiting for guns to turn up, it’s just wicked.”
My colleague Holly Bancroft has more:
Geronimo the alpaca faces being executed today as police escort the animal away from his farm in Gloucestershire.
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of Geronimo the alpaca. Stay tuned as we give you the latest updates after police arrived at the farm he belongs to with an execution warrant.