Alpaca to be killed after four-year legal battle fails in High Court

Geronimo will be put down after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis when she first arrived in the UK.

A South Gloucestershire woman's four-year battle to save her beloved alpaca is finally over, after she lost a Hight Court bid to save it from slaughter.

Helen MacDonald began a legal struggle against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2018, in a bid to keep Geronimo alive.

The stud, which lives in isolation in Wickwar, tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis (bTb) after it was brought from a farm in New Zealand in August 2017 to the UK.

This meant it would need to be put down.

But the veterinary nurse and alpaca breeder argued there was "overwhelming evidence" that the alpaca was not infected, and said the original test results were "not reliable."

The legal battle escalated after Helen lost her original High Court bid in 2019. A judge gave a warrant in May 2021, allowing the Animal and Plant Agency (APHA) permission to seize Geronimo.

But Helen brought an appeal against the warrant to the High Court on Thursday 28 July, arguing the judge had made an error.

Helen's barrister said the two positive tests were inaccurate, due to the "bovine equivalent of a lateral flow test" being used.

She also crowdfund more than £15,000 from the public to help her fight legal proceedings to stop Geronimo from being euthanised.

Her barrister, Cathyrn McGahey QC, told the court there was "good reason to believe that Geronimo does not have bTB" and that the alpaca had not shown any symptoms since the two positive tests in 2017.

Ms McGahey also said Geronimo should have another test for bTB, on the basis the two results the alpaca received may have shown false positives.

The court heard Geronimo had several quicker but less accurate skin tests for bTB, which the lawyer called the "bovine equivalent of a lateral flow test".

However, alpacas, camels and llamas cannot be tested for bTB without Defra's permission - which it has refused to give.

Ned Westaway said on behalf of the APHA that two tests were unusual and a third would be "futile", opening the "floodgates" for other owners.

"This disease can take years to progress and it is on the basis that we maintain our suspicion that Geronimo has bTB," he added.

Geronimo will be euthanised after Helen's appeal was rejected by the High Court judge.

Mr Justice Griffiths rejected the appeal and said the judge who issued the warrant had acted correctly.

He recognised how sad it would be for Miss MacDonald to have the alpaca put down and added"perhaps no-one would not feel sorry for Miss MacDonald and Geronimo."

But he also said "this is not a case in which the wishes and feelings of Miss MacDonald can be paramount", stressing the need to prevent the "serious consequences" of bTB.

However, the execution warrant has been delayed until 5 August, to allow Helen to have Geronimo euthanised instead.