Bristol

Farmer loses High Court bid to save alpaca

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

An alpaca farmer has lost a High Court battle to stop one of her animals being killed.

Helen Macdonald took legal action to save her stud, Geronimo, who was earmarked for slaughter after twice testing positive for bovine TB.

Ms Macdonald, from Wickwar, south Gloucestershire, claims government scientists relied on "flawed science".

Geronimo was moved to the UK from New Zealand in August 2017 and has been kept in quarantine since his arrival.

'Compelling evidence'

The farmer had argued that Geronimo was not infected with the disease and said the tests carried out on him produced "false positive results" because he had been "primed" before them by being injected with bovine tuberculin.

Last July, Ms Macdonald challenged Environment Secretary Michael Gove's refusal to allow Geronimo to be re-tested .

Her lawyers argued there was "overwhelming evidence" to show that the alpaca was not infected, and said the original test results were not reliable.

However, Mr Justice Murray dismissed Ms Macdonald's case, finding that there was no "compelling evidence" that the decision not to re-test Geronimo was unlawful.

He acknowledged that the government accepted that "it is possible that Ms Macdonald is correct that the ... test results are false positives" but added: "Nonetheless, the two positive results provide strong evidence, to a high degree of certainty, that he is so infected."

He said he understood the decision to slaughter Geronimo was "highly distressing for Ms Macdonald and her supporters", but concluded that the decision was not unlawful.

Defra is responsible for controlling bovine TB, which results in thousands of livestock being put down every year.

A number of controversial badger-culling programmes have been carried out in recent years which the government says will stop the spread of the disease.

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