Geronimo: Owner claims new test results show alpaca did not have TB as Defra investigations continue

  • Helen MacDonald speaks to ITV News West Country

The owner of an alpaca which was killed after twice testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) has accused the Government of "enabling the death of a perfectly healthy animal" to "maintain the status quo".

Helen MacDonald says a post-mortem pathology report shows Geronimo the alpaca did not have bovine TB - a claim refuted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In a statement released over the weekend, Helen said a histopathology report - which relates to the diagnosis and study of diseases of the tissues - shows Geronimo "did not have Bovine Tuberculosis".

Helen, who lives in South Gloucestershire, believes the test results were false positives and has since campaigned for more accurate testing.

Despite a four-year legal battle to try to save the animal reaching the High Court, Geronimo was put down by staff from the Government's Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in August.

Defra has since revealed it found "a number of TB-like lesions" during a post-mortem which are still undergoing further investigation.

A High Court judge ordered Geronimo to be put down. Credit: PA

The department's chief veterinary officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said: “These tests include the developing of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months - we would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year."

Speaking on Monday 4 October, Helen told ITV News West Country Geronimo's death is "the worst thing" to have ever happened to her.

She said Geronimo "was never exposed to bovine TB in New Zealand" but the positive test results were as a result of him being injected with tuberculin before his arrival in the UK.

She accused the Government of "enabling the death of a perfectly healthy animal" to "maintain the status quo".

"Geronimo was killed for no reason other than Defra’s inexorable reluctance to consider that their current procedures and policies are imprecise and invalid," she said.

She told ITV News West Country: "Geronimo had a traumatic end to his life through senseless incompetent vets employed by APHA. I want to understand what happened to him that day and why they did what they did. It was just appalling and unnecessary.

"Going forward we will be campaigning for Geronimo's law and we are going to try to change the behaviour of that department and ensure that this never happens to anyone else."

Bovine TB can be fatal to both animals and humans.

Defra says its 'control strategy' seeks to eliminate TB on suspicion of disease in animals to protect public health.

Boris Johnson this week described Geronimo's case as "a tough one" but said the Government's priority is to stop the spread of TB.

Issuing an appeal directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Helen said: "Invite me to Downing Street, let's have a conversation".