Save Geronimo! Senior vets say doomed alpaca's life should be spared
Save Geronimo! Senior vets say doomed alpaca’s life should be spared and animal studied to improve knowledge of bovine TB
- Twelve members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons backed owner
- They argued that the test used to mark him as TB positive was inaccurate
- Geronimo’s allies now face an anxious wait for Defra’s executioners
Senior vets today called for doomed alpaca Geronimo’s life to be spared so he can be studied to improve knowledge of bovine TB.
Twelve members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have cast doubt about his diagnosis, saying it ‘may well represent a false positive’.
Their intervention is a boost for Helen Macdonald, Geronimo’s owner, whose petition to save her much-loved pet has reached nearly 150,000 signatures.
Twelve members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have cast doubt about Geronimo’s diagnosis, saying it ‘may well represent a false positive’. He is seen today
She has insisted the Enferplex test used on him twice was flawed because it had been primed with tuberculin, a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) denies this.
But Professor Ranald Munroe, former head of pathology for Defra’s Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and Dr Iain McGill, veterinary scientific adviser to Macdonald, both support her claim that the test is inaccurate.
They pointed to data Defra on alpaca bTB cases in 2020, which they say demonstrates the test’s low specificity.
The vets told The Times: ‘We could learn a great deal from Geronimo were he to be compassionately studied, but very little from his death.’
It comes as Geronimo’s vet claimed officials will struggle to find an ‘executioner’ for Geronimo because they will be labelled ‘public enemy No 1’.
Owner Helen Macdonald, 50, insists the tests are flawed and that Geronimo is free from the disease
Bob Broadbent has regularly examined Geronimo, and says there is no sign of the bovine tuberculosis that the alpaca tested positive for in 2017 – the reason the High Court last week ruled he must be put down.
Owner Helen Macdonald, 50, insists the tests are flawed and that Geronimo is free from the disease.
Mr Broadbent said: ‘Finding someone [to kill Geronimo] is going to be an issue. I don’t think you or I would like to be the person doing it. You’d be public enemy No 1.’
He added: ‘The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) already knows this and they’re hoping that Helen will do it for them. But she has refused to do it, unless he comes back positive after an appropriate validated test. I don’t think anyone will volunteer.’
Mrs Macdonald, from Gloucestershire, ignored a request from Defra to kill the animal by 5pm last Friday.
She is now nervously awaiting a visit from Defra ‘executioners’ – but she too doubts any volunteers will come forward given the possible ‘repercussions’.
A petition to save the alpaca has reached nearly 150,000 signatures. Pictured are protesters at the farm where he lives
Mrs Macdonald, who is uploading a live feed of Geronimo’s movements, said: ‘If somebody comes here to kill Geronimo, they will be identified and there are people out there who won’t be happy about it.
‘There may be repercussions. How does that person get any employment liability insurance, for example? It is not something any vet will undertake lightly.
‘There is so much anger and rage about this. If Geronimo dies, I dread to think what will happen.
‘You only have to look at his Facebook page to see that. It’s out of my hands now.’
Defra officials have not said when they plan to destroy Geronimo, leaving his owner ‘on edge all of the time’.
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