The post-mortem carried out on Geronimo the alpaca has revealed ‘not a shred of evidence’ that he had bovine tuberculosis, his owner and vets said last night.
The animal was put down by Government vets after a four-year legal battle in August.
Last night Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald released the full report of the post-mortem carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
She and her vets claimed it revealed all tests showed Geronimo was negative for the disease.
Last night Geronimo’s owner Helen Macdonald released the full report of the post-mortem carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Pictured: Geronimo is examined by a team of people ahead of being taken away in a trailer to be put down, on August 31, 2021
The post-mortem carried out on Geronimo the alpaca has revealed ‘not a shred of evidence’ that he had bovine tuberculosis, his owner and vets said last night
But she was immediately countered by Defra which said a ‘number of TB-like lesions were found’ and were being investigated further.
Miss Macdonald said: ‘I fully expected the post mortem results to be negative for bTB but there is no joy in being proven right. I am outraged and devastated by the way Geronimo and I have been treated.’
Geronimo twice tested positive for the disease in 2017, but Miss Macdonald insisted the tests were flawed and produced false positives.
Dr Bob Broadbent, Geronimo’s vet, said that, significantly, no lesions were found in the alpaca’s lungs or respiratory tract – the most common place for lesions in an animal with bTB. He added: ‘If Geronimo had had bTB for over six years as Defra claimed, you would expect to find large, classic pyogranulomas (tumours) produced as a result of bTB infection.
‘None of the lesions identified are pathognomonic (or) specifically indicative of bTB. Despite Defra claiming all of the lesions are “TB-like”, the post-mortem report expressly rules out any mycobacterial infection such bTB relating to the lesions found in the neck area.’
Vet Dr Iain McGill, who has been advising Miss Macdonald during her battle with Defra, agreed the report failed to show any evidence of the disease in Geronimo.
She and her vets claimed it revealed all tests showed Geronimo was negative for the disease
The animal was put down by Government vets after a four-year legal battle in August. Pictured: Geronimo supporters are seen holding signs outside of Shepherds Close Farm in Gloucestershire on August 19, 2021
Timeline: Geronimo’s long struggle for survival
- Geronimo is brought to England from New Zealand in August 2017 by his owner, veterinary nurse Helen Macdonald.
- He tests positive for bovine tuberculosis twice in August and November, and is put into isolation away from the rest of the herd at the farm in Wickwar.
- The Government applies for a court order in July to have Geronimo destroyed. The alpaca is given a stay of execution, with a deadline of the end of August for his slaughter.
- Miss Macdonald seeks a judicial review claiming new evidence shows the animal is healthy – marking the start of a series of lengthy legal battles.
- In November, Miss Macdonald wins the right to a review at the High Court.
- In March, a hearing gets underway and Miss Macdonald claims Government experts relied on ‘flawed science’. The case dismissed in July.
- In May, a district court judge orders an execution warrant.
- Miss Macdonald starts an appeal and an order is made preventing Geronimo’s destruction pending the application.
- She takes out an emergency injunction to delay a warrant to cull the animal before an an appeal hearing on July 29.
- The case is again dismissed. A judge agrees to delay the start of a second execution warrant until August 5
- Geronimo is taken away on August 31 and executed.
He said: ‘If Geronimo had died naturally, and this post-mortem had been carried out and yielded these same results, any veterinary surgeon or pathologist would state that there is no evidence of bTB at all. Simply put, there is not one shred of evidence from this report to suggest Geronimo had bTB.’
Miss Macdonald accused Environment Secretary George Eustice of acting ‘immorally and unethically’ and demanded a public apology from the minister.
Dr Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinary officer at Defra, said: ‘A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice these are now undergoing further investigation.’
She added: ‘We would expect to complete the full post-mortem by the end of the year.’
It comes after last month when Geronimo’s owner claimed the animal is being ‘denied a funeral’ because the Government is refusing to hand over his incinerated remains.
Helen Macdonald claimed the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has insisted on holding onto the South American mammal’s ashes due to the risk of contracting TB.
The alpaca was dragged from Miss Macdonald’s farm in Gloucestershire in August by Government officials in boiler suits and facemasks – and dozens of police officers fending off animal rights campaigners – days before a court order to execute him lapsed.
Less than 90 minutes later, Defra confirmed that Geronimo – who had twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis but had refused a third test – was executed by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency, bringing a four-year legal battle to a close.
Miss Macdonald was campaigning for the destruction to be halted after insisting the bovine tuberculosis tests previously carried out returned false positives. She had wanted him to be tested for a third time or allowed to live to aid research into the disease.
The veterinary nurse also argued that the Enferplex test was fundamentally flawed and said Geronimo tested positive because he had repeatedly been primed with tuberculin – a purified protein derivative of bovine TB bacteria.
Speaking to the Daily Star, Miss Macdonald alleged: ‘They (Defra) incinerated the ‘carcass’ as they referred to him. They wanted me to arrange for him to be put to death so they could say I consented. They told me to tell them when he was dead so they could collect the ‘carcass’.’
Geronimo twice tested positive for the disease in 2017, but Miss Macdonald insisted the tests were flawed and produced false positives
Dr Bob Broadbent, Geronimo’s vet, said that, significantly, no lesions were found in the alpaca’s lungs or respiratory tract – the most common place for lesions in an animal with bTB
The farmer believes that Geronimo should not have been led from her farm in Gloucestershire with a rope around its neck, but instead in a head collar, the paper added.
A Defra spokesman told MailOnline that Geronimo was euthanised by APHA in line with strict animal welfare policies. By law, any animal with a suspected TB infection must be disposed of properly and safely as part of rigorous and consistent disease control measures.
It comes amid a row over whether Geronimo had bovine tuberculosis after Miss Macdonald claimed the initial findings of the post-mortem showed no signs of the disease.
Miss Macdonald claimed that the preliminary post-mortem findings were ‘negative for visible lesions typical of bovine tuberculosis’. However, the Chief Veterinary Officer said in a statement that ‘a number of TB-like lesions were found’.
The farmer has previously also called on Environment Secretary George Eustice to resign, accusing him of ‘murdering an innocent animal’ days before a warrant for the animal’s destruction was due to expire.
Police officers and staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) arrived at Helen Macdonald’s farm near Wickwar, south Gloucestershire, at 10.45am on August 31.
Pictured: Geronimo’s owner Helen (centre) is seen alongside members of the Justice for Geronimo and Stop Badger Culling campaigns outside of the officers of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on September 8, 2021
Macdonald was countered by Defra which said a ‘number of TB-like lesions were found’ and were being investigated further
Campaigners, who had been camped out at the property for weeks, loudly protested as the Defra staff, wearing overalls, masks and goggles, rounded up the alpaca in his enclosure.
Geronimo, who had twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, was tied with white rope before being scanned for a microchip then pulled through a field to a waiting trailer.
The trailer and police escort left the farm at 11.20am and by 12.40pm, Defra confirmed that the animal had been euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha).
In a statement, Defra said that a court warrant, which was due to expire on September 4, had been used to seize Geronimo from the farm and euthanise him.
Ms Macdonald insists that bovine tuberculosis tests previously carried out on the alpaca returned false positives and has been campaigning for his destruction to be halted.
She had applied in writing for an independent witness to be present when a post-mortem examination was carried out on Geronimo, who came to the UK from New Zealand in 2017.
Vet Dr Iain McGill, who has been advising Miss Macdonald during her battle with Defra, agreed the report failed to show any evidence of the disease in Geronimo
Did Geronimo have TB or not? Experts won’t know until the end of this year
Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said that the initial post-mortem examination of Geronimo found a ‘number of TB-like lesions’.
These are now undergoing further investigation, with tests including the developing of bacteriological cultures (growths) from tissue samples.
This normally takes several months, and experts expect to complete the full process by the end of this year.
A lesion is an area of tissue that has been damaged through disease – and in some cases, the microscopic lesions of TB in the affected organs can take a very long time to progress to larger, visible lesions, if at all.
Mycobacterium bovis can be grown in the laboratory from clinical samples, usually from tissue samples collected post-mortem. The culture process takes a long time because the bacterium grows slowly.
This process can only be carried out in specialist laboratories, and it is not always successful even in lab conditions. It is only after growth in the laboratory that the species of Mycobacterium can be identified.
However, on Tuesday evening she posted a letter to her Twitter account that appeared to be from the Government Legal Department.
This stated that Apha ‘was not in a position to accommodate’ her request for her vet to observe the post-mortem examination ‘for health and safety, Covid-19 and site security reasons’.
It added: ‘The examination proceeded in accordance with standard operating procedures for suspected TB clinical cases and TB test-positive animals, which do not allow for the obtaining of samples for private testing’.
Ms Macdonald tweeted: ‘Citing Covid and security reasons are appallingly weak excuses to block an independent observer to the post-mortem of Geronimo.
‘This is an immensely arrogant and blatant continuation of their mission to conceal their processes and act without transparency and fairness’.
The veterinary nurse also called on environment secretary George Eustice to resign.
She said: ‘I am calling for George Eustice’s resignation.
‘The Secretary of State has acted in bad faith, refusing to engage with us to discuss a research solution that would further the Government’s very own objectives.
‘Instead he has resorted to bullying and cowardly tactics, hiding behind Government lawyers and refusing to listen to us.
‘He has murdered an innocent animal rather than doing something productive and good for this country and small farmers like me.
‘He is unfit to hold office.’