UK vets euthanise Geronimo the alpaca despite outcry

The controversial camelid was sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bovine TB.

Protesters demonstrated against the ruling that Geronimo, an Alpaca believed have carried TB, had to be euthanised [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

British government veterinarians on Tuesday killed Geronimo, an alpaca whose sentence of death for carrying bovine tuberculosis made international headlines and pitted animal activists against the state.

Veterinary staff in blue overalls, masks and goggles, backed by police officers, arrived at the farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, where the animal lives, and took Geronimo from his pen.

The scene was witnessed by animal activists and journalists who have camped out at the farm in Wickwar, 175 kilometers (110 miles) west of London, pledging to stop the killing.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the animal had been euthanised.

The controversial camelid was sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bovine TB.

His owner, Helen Macdonald, argued the tests had produced false positives and fought for a third test.

Macdonald, a veterinary nurse, said the alpaca was negative when he was brought in from New Zealand and she had spent thousands of pounds on a failed court battle to save the animal.

Several veterinarians backed her cause, but earlier this month a High Court judge rejected Macdonald’s request for a temporary injunction to stop the killing order and reopen the case.

Bovine TB can devastate cattle herds and hurt farm revenues.

The United Kingdom has been culling animals – chiefly badgers – to stop its spread for a decade, but the practice remains contentious.

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

“This is a terribly sad situation and our sympathies remain with all those affected by this devastating disease,” said UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss.

“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 said.

A spokesman for the prime minister said it is highly distressing for someone to lose an animal.

“Our sympathies are with Ms Macdonald and others that are affected by this terrible disease,” he said.

Source: News Agencies