British Court Denies Last-Ditch Effort to Save Geronimo, the Divisive Alpaca

Helen Macdonald said she has until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to put him down herself or agricultural authorities, who fear bovine tuberculosis, can show up to kill him at any time.,

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The owner of Geronimo — a fat, soft, highly divisive 8-year-old alpaca — on Wednesday lost her last-ditch legal effort to save him from execution.

A British High Court rejected Helen Macdonald’s attempt to halt the warrant to kill Geronimo, who agricultural authorities believe has bovine tuberculosis.

Ms. Macdonald, who believes the government’s diagnosis is the result of a false positive, said that she now has until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday to put him down herself or the authorities can show up to do it at a time of their choosing.

Justice Mary Elizabeth Stacey concluded that there was “no prospect” that Ms. Macdonald would succeed in her bid to reopen a previous ruling, according to the British press, which covered the hearing widely.

Ms. Macdonald, who is a veterinary nurse, did not attend the hearing herself; she was back at the Gloucestershire farm with Geronimo, the dozens of “alpaca angels” who have vowed to protect Geronimo from execution and the numerous reporters who have been extensively covering the legal developments involving the fight for Geronimo. But what Ms. Macdonald heard from members of her legal team who were present was consistent with “no prospect,” she said.

Still, she was not ready to give up.

“I’m not having him put down,” Ms. Macdonald said. “No way. I know he’s healthy.”

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Protesters believe that the British agricultural authorities’ system of testing for bovine tuberculosis is flawed.Credit…Vickie Flores/EPA, via Shutterstock

Ms. Macdonald and the tens of thousands of other people who have been rallying around Geronimo in recent weeks believe that the reason Geronimo tested positive for bovine TB twice is not because he’s sick but because the testing system is flawed. Other alpaca owners and veterinarians have been skeptical about the test in the past.

The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, known as DEFRA, which runs the testing, said that this was not the case.

“We are sympathetic to Ms. Macdonald’s situation — just as we are with everyone with animals affected by this terrible disease,” the agency said in a post earlier this month that the agency said was meant to debunk “misleading information” about Geronimo. “It is for this reason that the testing results and options for Geronimo have been very carefully considered by DEFRA, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and its veterinary experts, as well as passing several stages of thorough legal scrutiny.” The agency could not be reached for comment on the latest developments.

Ms. Macdonald said that her legal team’s strategy Wednesday was to get access to data from a judicial review that she believes shows that nine camelids — the term for slender-necked animals including alpacas, llamas and camels — that tested positive for bovine TB were found to be perfectly healthy after they were put down. The judge denied her access to that “evidence,” she said, and she has been told that she cannot appeal the decision.

More than 27,000 cattle in England were slaughtered in the last year to contain bovine TB, according to DEFRA.

The chief veterinary officer of the United Kingdom, Christine Middlemiss, has said that it is essential to take positive tests seriously in order to “eradicate the biggest threat to animal health in this country.”

The judge’s ruling “changes nothing,” Ms. Macdonald wrote on Wednesday on the Save Geronimo Facebook page. “We fight on!”

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