Geronimo the alpaca has won a brief stay of execution – thanks to the Daily Mail.
Lawyers for the animal’s owner Helen Macdonald said yesterday’s revelations in this newspaper about other healthy alpacas being wrongly slaughtered are being used as evidence for a renewed legal fight for his life.
They lodged a claim for judicial review at the High Court in London yesterday including an application for a temporary injunction to halt the enforcement of the warrant for Geronimo’s execution recently granted to the Government.
Supporters of Geronimo the alpaca have been campaigning to stop his execution
Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald, pictured, lost a £50,000 legal case last month although she has been given another opportunity to take a case on Monday which could lead to a reprieve for the alpaca
Last night the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told Miss Macdonald’s legal team Geronimo would have at least a 72-hour stay of execution to 4pm on Monday until they could respond to the latest petition.
It comes after she lost a £50,000 legal battle with the department, which won the right just over a week ago to euthanise Geronimo within 30 days.
The new claim for judicial review also asks Defra to hand over data relating to alpacas that tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) but were found to be clear of the disease after death.
Almost 125,000 people have signed a petition seeking to save Geronimo, an eight-year-old alpaca sentenced to death after twice testing positive for bTB following his arrival in Britain from New Zealand in August 2017.
His plight has won the support of several celebrities including actress Joanna Lumley and BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham. He has been kept in isolation at her farm in Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, ever since he was imported.
Miss Macdonald claims the Enferplex blood tests he was given were flawed because Defra insisted he was ‘primed’ or injected with a protein called tuberculin to make them more sensitive. Campaigners say injecting the protein prompts an immune response in camelids, an animal group including llamas and alpacas, causing a false positive test for bTB.
Geronimo has not been tested for four years and his vet has insisted he would be dead by now if he was infected with the disease.
Miss Macdonald, a veterinary nurse, said last night: ‘The Daily Mail’s article was vital in our renewed legal efforts to save Geronimo. Defra’s case against us failed to disclose that other alpacas had been primed with tuberculin and culled before post-mortems revealed they didn’t actually have TB.
‘This has enabled us to go for an interim injunction because they failed to disclose information which would have been beneficial to our case. We have an opportunity to prove the evidence that Defra put before the court failed to acknowledge issues with the testing.’
She added: ‘Thanks to the Daily Mail we have a chance of saving Geronimo and putting right a miscarriage of justice.
‘It will help make it more difficult for Defra to put alpaca owners through the nightmare I and others have endured. It’s becoming clear Defra has culled other healthy animals and should have investigated the misdiagnoses of these alpacas.’
Yesterday’s Daily Mail featured the harrowing stories of two farmers whose alpacas and llamas were slaughtered by Defra after testing positive but were later found to be disease free at post-mortems
Lawyer Jan Mugerwa, of Olephant Solicitors, who is representing Miss Macdonald and Geronimo, said: ‘We are making an interim application to the courts to seek disclosure of information relating to camelids and seeking an injunction to overturn the warrant.’ Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns, who has set up a parliamentary animal rights group called Animals Matter, is also lobbying Environment Secretary George Eustice to save Geronimo. She wants him to consider retesting the alpaca.
Miss Jenkyns said: ‘Lessons have to be learnt and this can’t happen in the future.’
Supporters can watch Geronimo via a webcam in his enclosure and others have vowed to form a human shield around him if Defra officials arrive to slaughter him.
Yesterday’s Daily Mail featured the harrowing stories of two farmers whose alpacas and llamas were slaughtered by Defra after testing positive but were later found to be disease free at post-mortems.
Both said their animals had been repeatedly primed with tuberculin for the Enferplex blood tests.
John Carr-Ellison, who had five llamas put down on Defra’s orders, said: ‘All of them had false positives. It is a miscarriage of justice.’
Ann Price, whose three-year-old alpaca Diva was also culled after a suspected false positive test, said: ‘It was cruel – my husband had to hold her as they shot her. She knew what was going to happen. It has got to stop.’
Defra said nobody wanted to cull infected animals but insisted it was necessary to stop the spread of disease and protect the livelihoods of those affected.