The way doomed alpaca Geronimo was captured and brought to his death has been condemned as “disgraceful” and “abhorrent” by the UK’s society of alpaca owners.
In a written complaint sent to environment secretary George Eustice and prime minister Boris Johnson, The British Alpaca Society said that Defra officers failed to ensure that Geronimo was “handled and euthanised with a minimum of distress”.
They pointed to the capture of the animal and his handling as “startling and totally inexcusable”, saying that officials were “dragging him kicking and screaming on to a trailer then tying him up with a poorly fitted cattle halter”.
The society, which represents 2,000 alpaca owners in the UK, claimed that Geronimo was “screaming his distress call as he was brutally loaded, which is evidence of how terrified he was.” And alleged that the alpaca was “seen gasping for air”.
Geronimo the alpaca was taken from his farm in Gloucestershire yesterday and killed by vets enforcing a court warrant issued to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Uniformed police helped Defra officials wearing masks, goggles, and blue overalls to take the animal from his pen at the farm in Wickwar.
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 as a necessary measure to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.”
But the British Alpaca Society said that when alpacas are moved they should have headcollars fitted so that their breathing is not obstructed, and that they should be sat down when transported.
They added: “Whoever led this repulsive exercise yesterday simply hadn’t bothered to find out the proper techniques”.
Speaking about the incident, the government’s 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 county.”
Helen Macdonald, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca, hit out at the government for failing to “engage” with campaigners yesterday.
She said: “I’m absolutely disgusted by this government. They know that they set him up four years ago with incompetence and bullying and a falsified test that has no validity and yet [here] we are this morning. Geronimo has been manhandled out of my farm.”
Despite Defra being granted a warrant to euthanise the alpaca, Ms Macdonald claimed the testing was flawed and that her animal was healthy.
Geronimo was tested again for bovine tuberculosis yesterday, and results of the tests will be sent to Ms Macdonald when completed.
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