Owner of doomed alpaca Geronimo counts down the days till his death warrant expires

‘There are holding me in this limbo situation,’ says Helen Macdonald

Holly Bancroft
Tuesday 31 August 2021 09:14
comments

The owner of doomed alpaca Geronimo has spoken of the anxiety of waiting for “guns to turn up” to kill her animal in the next five days.

Helen Macdonald, who runs a farm with 80 alpacas, told The Independent : “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.

“I can’t understand why nobody in Government hasn’t done or said something by now.”

Geronimo is under orders to be killed because he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis four years ago. But Helen Macdonald argues that the testing is flawed and that her animal is healthy.

After a fraught legal battle, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was granted a warrant to euthanise the alpaca within 30 days from August 5th - meaning that they have only days left to execute the order.

If the government don’t euthanise Geronimo within that time, they will have to go back to court and apply for another warrant.

“I presume they would have to justify why they didn’t execute the first one,” Ms Macdonald said. “No one’s telling me anything. There are holding me in this limbo situation. I’ve got people here all the time and we are all just waiting for something to happen. It’s cruel. Really cruel.”

She revealed that Defra had asked her to put Geronimo down herself. “I won’t do that,” Ms Macdonald said, “I’ve made that very plain... we need to get out of this stalemate situation.”

Ms Macdonald has written to environment secretary George Eustice demanding an urgent meeting to settle the issue but has heard nothing back.

Despite this, she is hopeful for Geronimo’s future. “[The Government] has options they can take to get out of killing him. I believe they will take them and resolve this so we get a good outcome,” she said.

After increased public interest in the case, a webcam was set up next to Geronimo’s enclosure to live stream footage to his supporters.

Speaking about the world-wide support, Helen Macdonald said: “I’m in bed in the morning and I get a message from New Zealand saying ‘Oh Geronimo’s just got up’, and I think that’s nice. They are all watching it all over the world. It’s bonkers but it’s great They are all really bonding with him.”

The eight-year-old alpaca has been kept in isolation at the farm in Wickwar, south Gloucestershire ever since he was imported from New Zealand in 2017.

He had tested negative for TB in New Zealand but then twice tested positive for the disease on arrival in England.

Ms Macdonald insists the results were “false positives” because Geronimo had been “primed” by TB before being tested, a method Defra says improves the sensitivity of the blood test.

Animal charity PETA yesterday issued a statement saying that the country’s attention to Geronimo the alpaca showed that the wool industry should take better care of their animals.

PETA director Elisa Allen said in a statement: “Geronimo’s plight pulls at the nation’s heartstrings because people see him for who he is - an individual with thoughts, feelings, and a will to live.”

She highlighted PETA’s recent campaign against maltreatment of the animals on farms in Peru, where “workers handle them so violently that their legs are nearly dislocated.”

Ms Allen encouraged consumers to “refuse to wear their skin, fur, or fleece and respect them enough to leave them alone rather than breeding them for trivial human interests.”

A spokesperson for Defra 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.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments