Campaigners gathered in Westminster on Monday to protest the planned euthanasia of an alpaca named Geronimo after he twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, an infectious deadly disease.
The protest was staged after more than 90,000 people signed a petition calling for the government to halt the alpaca’s euthanasia. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ordered the animal be put down after its owner lost an appeal at the High Court to spare her pet.
Six-year-old Geronimo has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, but its owners have demanded a stay of execution, claiming the tests have returned false positives and calling for a third definitive test to be carried out. The UK government dismissed any suggestion of a false positive, stating that there is a 0.36% chance of that happening.
If officials proceed with the plan to euthanise the animal, its owner, Helen Macdonald, and her fellow supporters have pledged to form a “human shield” around Geronimo to attempt to save his life. Expecting police to arrive at the farm from today, Macdonald declared that opponents of the planned cull are prepared to block access to authorities, even if they “try to catch us off guard.”
The legal battle to save Geronimo has been ongoing since 2017, with his owner being handed a second death warrant on Thursday after her final efforts to save the animal were dismissed. Before being exported from New Zealand, Geronimo returned four negative skin tests for bovine tuberculosis.
Boris Johnson’s father Stanley has entered the debate over the animal’s future, calling on the PM to avert “Geronimo’s judicial execution.” Stanley Johnson, an ardent wildlife campaigner, slammed DEFRA for attempting to carry out an “absurd murderous errand.”
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A spokesperson for DEFRA defended the decision to cull the alpaca, highlighting in a statement that “bovine tuberculosis is one of the greatest animal health threats we face today.” The disease has plagued the UK countryside for years, resulting in the implementation of a test-and-slaughter programme by Public Health England to protect cattle and other wildlife from infection.
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