Dossier shows ministers MUST think again on Geronimo the alpaca

Revealed: The dossier that shows ministers MUST think again on Geronimo as it emerges nine slaughtered alpacas and llamas ‘had no TB in post-mortem’

  • Geronimo the alpaca is set to be killed by officials for having bovine tuberculosis
  • But campaigners warn primer used to take test often provides false positive
  • Now dossier reveals at least nine alpacas and llamas killed for having bTB later did not show presence of disease in post-mortem analysis
  • Doubts have been cast over the Enferplex blood tests used by Defra officials
  • Dr Iain McGill, Geronimo’s vet, claimed Defra was trying to ‘kill its way out of trouble’

At least nine other alpacas and llamas have been killed in circumstances similar to doomed Geronimo’s before post-mortem analysis showed they did not have bovine tuberculosis, a bombshell dossier claims.

The document seen by the Daily Mail details a string of cases in which tests on the living animals came back positive for bTB.

But in every case the animals were shown to have no presence of the disease after they were slaughtered.

The camelids – five llamas and four alpacas – were found to have tested positive on Enferplex blood tests, the same used by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Geronimo.

The document shows the camelids had been repeatedly dosed with tuberculin, a primer for bTB tests.

Campaigners claim the use of the primer boosts antibodies to produce a false positive result.

A dossier seen by the Mail reveals that at least nine alpacas and llamas have been killed in similar circumstances to doomed Geronimo’s before post-mortem analysis showed they did not have bTB

The dossier casts further doubt on the accuracy of Defra’s system of testing alpacas for bTB and piles further pressure on officials to reverse their decision to slaughter Geronimo.

It was compiled from data sent to SureFarm, the Enferplex test’s developer, and includes cases dating back as far as 2014.

In each case the document shows the levels of the antibodies detected in the camelids.

A separate note next to each case provides a damning verdict – each was marked for slaughter and then received a post-mortem examination which found no evidence of disease.

Samples were taken to try and grow cultures of bTB in a laboratory. In every case this was impossible.

Geronimo’s case has sparked a furious row after he was marked for slaughter after twice testing positive for bTB. Pictured: Protestors in support of Geronimo take to the streets of Westminster

The animals had all received multiple doses of tuberculin, with some receiving two doses in the space of three months.

The document does not contain the case of Karlie, highlighted in the Daily Mail yesterday.

The 11-year-old alpaca was put down after a false positive in 2018, raising fears the nine are just the tip of the iceberg.

Geronimo’s case has sparked a furious row after he was marked for slaughter after twice testing positive for bTB.

His owner Helen Macdonald, 50, from Wickwar, Gloucestershire, lost a High Court battle last week to prevent officials killing eight-year-old Geronimo.

She said last night: ‘[Environment Secretary] George Eustice has repeatedly refused to listen when it comes to Geronimo.

‘The data shows it’s not just me who has had their animal suffer a false positive test.

Avon and Somerset Police officers arrived at the property in Wickwar, Gloucestershire that houses beloved alpaca Geronimo on Friday to speak with Ms McDonald

‘There’s at least nine others who have been needlessly slaughtered only for post-mortems to find no evidence of the disease.

‘What the data does show is animals are being dosed with tuberculin unnecessarily leading to positive test results which should never have occurred in the first place.’

Dr Iain McGill, Geronimo’s vet, added that Defra was trying to ‘kill its way out of trouble’.

He said: ‘This document clearly shows the diagnosis of Geronimo is unsafe and that of the others [camelids slaughtered] were unsafe. People’s lives are being broken by this.

‘They are falsely inflating it with priming – there’s some really poor testing going on. There needs to be a root and branch review of bTB testing in this country.

‘They need to get experts and farmers around a table with government officials and come to some kind of consensus.’

Supporters formed a ‘human shield’ at Miss Macdonald’s farm yesterday. Dozens of friends, family and animal rights activists posted outside the farm to prevent Defra officials from getting near Geronimo.

A professional security operation was set up with checkpoints to prevent infiltration of the farm. Geronimo had been repeatedly primed with tuberculin for skin tests in New Zealand before he was exported to the UK in 2017.

Further tests conducted in the UK saw Geronimo dosed again with tuberculin, which Miss Macdonald argues produced the false positive. Defra officials now have 30 days to come and kill Geronimo, which Miss Macdonald vowed would be ‘over my dead body’.

Mr Eustice has been accused of ‘lying’ over the incident and having ‘misunderstood’ the tests used to condemn Geronimo to death.

In London around 30 people, including fellow alpaca farmers who had travelled from as far afield as Scotland, gathered outside Defra offices in Westminster.

Among them was Bridget Tibbs-Hamilton, the owner of Karlie. Some carried banners reading We stand with Geronimo and Retest, not Death.

Veteran animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer said: ‘Why would you allow this animal to be killed when you know there is a good test that could be used to show it is not positive? It doesn’t add up.’

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: ‘I know the devastation that TB can cause farmers, their communities and their animals.

‘The tests used on Geronimo were developed for use on alpacas and are highly specific. The chances of a false positive are significantly less than one percent and we have tested him twice.

‘Not just for the benefit of our farming industry, but to avoid more TB cases in humans our disease control measures must be applied.’

Could doomed alpaca Geronimo be saved for science?

ByAlex Ward For The Daily Mail 

Hopes were raised at the prospect of a back channel deal to save the life of alpaca Geronimo last night.

Lawyers for Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald wrote to Environment Secretary George Eustice to broker peace talks.

Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham and actress Joanna Lumley are among those who have spoken out in support of Geronimo (pictured)

They highlighted a piece of obscure legislation in the Animal Health Act which confers powers on Mr Eustice to commute Geronimo’s death sentence.

Under the 1981 act Mr Eustice could intervene to prevent Geronimo’s slaughter so that the alpaca can be studied for research. It is understood several locations have been suggested for the animal, including the University of Liverpool.

The talks, if successful, could pave the way for the stand-off to be resolved, prevent Geronimo’s slaughter and help Mr Eustice, who has refused to retest Geronimo, save face.

Jan Mugerwa, of Olephant Solicitors, said Mr Eustice had been offered the opportunity to discuss the stand-off. Referring to the act, he said: ‘The minister has the power to reverse any animal that would otherwise be liable to be slaughtered.

‘He can either have Geronimo killed or he can say, ‘No this is important, there are issues, let’s take him to a research centre and take lessons from this’. It is very difficult but there is an alternative.’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted for comment.

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