Save Geronimo! The alpaca facing death by bureaucrat's bullet

THERE are just two days left to save Geronimo the Alpaca.

On Thursday the Men from the Ministry will be coming around with their rifles.

And that will be the end of Geronimo – executed for a “crime” he didn’t even commit.

Geronimo lives on a farm in Gloucestershire with his doting owner, Helen MacDonald.

He’s eight years old and comes from New Zealand. And he’s been under sentence of death for three years.

Now all his chances have run out and on Thursday he will face a bureaucrat’s bullet.

It is a travesty of the law and should shame the agriculture minister, George Eustice.

When Geronimo arrived in this country he was given tests by the government experts for tuberculosis.

But the tests seem to have been botched. They weren’t the proper tests, for a start.

Anyway, they showed the alpaca tested positive for tuberculosis.

But that was almost certainly a false positive – 50 per cent of such tests are.

As Helen explained, he had been tested FOUR times with the proper test in New Zealand. All negative.

Local vet Dr Iain McGill, director of the Prion Group practice, thinks there’s not much doubt about it.

Geronimo had been injected with bovine TB to judge his antibodies to the disease.

It is a deeply flawed means of testing. False positive tests have sentenced Geronimo to death.

Those tests were carried out almost four years ago.

And here’s the thing – if Geronimo DID have TB, how come he hasn’t died?

Alpacas only very rarely last more than two years with the disease.

Instead, Geronimo has been fighting fit the whole time. The creature does not have TB.

GENTLE AND CHEEKY

The worst of it is, Helen is not allowed, under the law, to give Geronimo a proper test which would prove once and for all that he doesn’t have TB.

The government bans her from doing so. If she went ahead with a test she could end up in jail.

But she adores Geronimo so much she has been through all the courts in the land trying to get the decision overturned.

This has put a terrible strain on her farm. If an animal tests positive for TB then there are severe restrictions of movement on all animals from the same farm.

Helen has lived under those restrictions for three years because she is DETERMINED to have this verdict changed.

All about alpacas

Alpacas, originally from South America, are part of the camel family and closely related to llamas

They were domesticated 6,000 years ago. In theAndes, they graze in
herds at 16,000ft (5,000m)

They defend themselves by kicking and use body language and ‘spitting’ to communicate

When they were first introduced to North America in the 1980s, one sold for $675,000

They live for up to 20yrs. In the 16th century, 98%
of them were killed by disease from Europe

She wants a stay of execution so that her beloved alpaca can be given a proper TB test.

“We could have let Geronimo be killed. I suppose that would have been the easy way out. But it seems such an utterly senseless waste,” she said, adding that she would be devastated by his death.

“He’s such a lovely animal. Very well trained and really gentle and incredibly cheeky.”

Animal rights campaigners have been rallying around in support of the long-necked expat from the Andes.

GERONIMO'S FATE IN TORY MP'S HANDS

The BBC’s brilliant Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has tweeted his support, begging the minister George Eustice to have a change of heart.

So, too, has the wildlife expert and campaigner Dominic Dyer.

Of course, all of those campaigners have pretty grave doubts about the government’s strategy for combatting bovine tuberculosis in general.

Me too, frankly.

Since 2013, the government has embarked on an horrendous programme of slaughtering wild badgers, which are one of the vectors of the disease.

There is very little evidence to show that killing the badgers has made the slightest difference to the spread of bovine TB.

There are one or two arguments to say it might make the situation worse.

Either way a staggering 144,830 wild badgers have been gassed or shot since 2013.

It is an atrocious record and a stain on the government.

Now Geronimo’s fate lies in the hands of George Eustice.

This Conservative government has recently ruled that animals are sentient.

This means they have certain RIGHTS.

One of those, George, is surely a second chance at life?

Come on Eustice. Do you want to be known as the politician who effectively put a bullet in the head of a fit and innocent animal?

We won’t forget.

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