Environment Secretary backs decision to cull Geronimo the alpaca over TB concerns

The animal’s owner has questioned the validity of the tests being used to justify the culling

Environment Secretary backs decision to cull Geronimo the alpaca over TB concerns (Photo: Getty/PA)

The environment secretary has weighed in to defend the decision to put down an alpaca which is thought to have TB, after a public outcry and questions raised about the validity of the tests used.

Geronimo, an alpaca owned by Helen Macdonald, has been tested several times since arriving in the UK from New Zealand, with each test returning a positive result.

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At a glance: 5 key points

– Geronimo the alpaca is due to be put down after testing positive for TB, a dangerous and highly infectious disease which can rapidly spread through flocks of livestock

– The animal’s owner, Helen Macdonald, has consistently questioned the validity of the tests used on Geronimo, claiming that it has “never been validated”

– Prior to being exported from New Zealand, Geronimo had four skin tests which all came back negative, but upon arriving in the UK three tests were carried out - two blood and one skin - all of which came back positive

– Environment Secretary George Eustice has intervened in the debate, defending the tests used and describing the culling of animals with TB as an “arduous but necessary endeavour”

– There is no set date for Geronimo to be culled as yet, and Macdonald has vowed to contest the decision further

What’s been said?

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, environment secretary George Eustice said: “There has been a great deal of focus on the case of Geronimo the alpaca this week.

“However, each week on average, we have to remove more than 500 cattle from herds due to infection in England alone. Behind every one of those cases is a farmer who has suffered loss and tragedy.

“Farmers understand that infected animals are a risk to the remainder of their herd, so while the loss of individual animals is always a tragedy, the farming communities have worked with our Government vets in this arduous but necessary endeavour.”

“Geronimo tested positive twice using a test called the ‘Enferplex’ test. It is the test that was requested by the British Alpaca Society at the time.

“The test is “over 99% accurate with a ‘false positive’ in only 0.34% of cases”, he said.

“Two consecutive positive test results is a very strong indicator of the presence of the disease,”

Geronimo’s owner, Helen Macdonald, said: “It’s a total load of lies, the testing has never been validated.”

She said if Mr Eustice is “willing to kill a healthy animal in front of the whole world without testing him properly first, then it’s a sorry state of affairs”.

“And it will be for the world to see. Because if he sends some poor person down here with a gun to shoot Geronimo then it will get filmed by the world’s media,” she added.