Tests on Geronimo find 'not one shred of evidence' that alpaca had bovine TB

October 20 2021
Tests on Geronimo find 'not one shred of evidence' that alpaca had bovine TB

THE owner of an alpaca which was killed by government vets after a legal battle says a post-mortem has proved he did not have bovine tuberculosis.

Helen Macdonald fought a four-year campaign to prove that Geronimo did not have the disease and that tests carried out when the animal was imported from New Zealand were flawed.

But after a High Court judge ruled against her, government vets accompanied by police went to the farm in Wickwar where Geronimo was being held in quarantine and took him away in a horsebox on August 31.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs later said that the alpaca had been put down, in accordance with a court warrant.

However Helen and her supporters say a new detailed post-mortem report carried out by Defra confirms that Geronimo did not have bTB.

Helen 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.

"As we have been saying for four years, DEFRA have never had any credible evidence to  support a suspicion of disease in Geronimo. They knew this yet forced his death regardless.

"It is a well-documented fact that Geronimo was never exposed to bTB in New Zealand and that the only test relied upon by DEFRA was entirely unvalidated in alpacas, and known to cause false positive results following injections of tuberculin."  

Helen's veterinary scientific advisor Dr Iain McGill said: "Simply put, there is not one shred of evidence from this report to suggest that Geronimo had bovine TB.

"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 Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) at all."

Defra insisted that "failure to ‘confirm’ the disease by post-mortem examination does not prove the animal was free of TB infection", adding that in the "early stages of bTB", lesions in the affected organs were often microscopic.

Geronimo’s long-standing vet Dr Bob Broadbent said that if Geronimo had had bTB for over six years there would have been clear evidence in his tissues - but nothing had been found which could be identified as characteristic of the disease.

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said: "A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice these are now undergoing further investigation. 

"These tests include the developing of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months – we would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year."