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Geronimo the alpaca: 'Flawed science' led to kill order

Alpaca Geronimo Image copyright Helen MacDonald
Image caption Geronimo was brought to the UK from New Zealand in August 2017

Government experts relied on "flawed science" when they ordered an alpaca that tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (BTB) be put down, the animal's owner has claimed.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants Geronimo killed following the test.

The six-year-old alpaca was brought to the UK from New Zealand in August 2017 and has been kept in isolation since.

A judge will rule on the animal's fate at a later date.

Geronimo's owner Helen MacDonald claims Defra is "relying doggedly on flawed science".

Ms MacDonald, who runs Alpaca Power in Wickwar, south Gloucestershire, has raised more than £10,000 to fund her legal battle through the Crowdjustice website.

She said Geronimo "remains in strikingly good health".

Her lawyers told the High Court on Wednesday there was "overwhelming evidence" Geronimo was not infected and the original test results were "not reliable".

Cathryn McGahey QC, on behalf of Ms MacDonald, said there had been three negative tests conducted on Geronimo and a vet had twice confirmed he was showing "no clinical signs" of the disease.

Potentially valuable animal

Defra is responsible for controlling BTB, which can have devastating consequences for cattle farmers.

Government lawyers argued that Geronimo was "highly suspected" of being infected with BTB, which can take years to manifest in physical symptoms, and should be slaughtered.

Ned Westaway, representing Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said: "One can of course express sympathy for the claimant, who clearly does not wish to lose a potentially valuable animal.

"However the legal position is clear. The defendant... is charged with controlling BTB and is the expert decision-maker for these purposes."

Mr Westaway said the court should only intervene if the decision is "irrational or otherwise unlawful".

Mr Justice Murray said he would give his ruling on the case at a later date.

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