Last ditch legal fight to save Geronimo set to resume

A court is due to decide whether an alpaca under a destruction order can be granted a stay of execution so further evidence can be produced.

The owner of Geronimo, who has twice tested positive for bovine TB, has lodged an urgent application for a temporary injunction at the High Court in London to prevent her beloved pet being put down.

Helen Macdonald, who imported the alpaca from New Zealand, believes the tests are returning false positives, but has been refused permission to have him tested a third time.

Earlier this month, she lost her final appeal to save Geronimo and a warrant was signed for his destruction.

Demonstrators outside Downing Street had campaigned against the decision to put down Geronimo
Demonstrators outside Downing Street had campaigned against the decision to put down Geronimo (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Macdonald, who owns a farm at Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, has received an outpouring of support from the public, with more than 130,000 people signing a petition calling on Boris Johnson to halt the killing.

A hearing to halt the enforcement of the destruction order before Mrs Justice Stacey was adjourned on Tuesday to allow time for Ms Macdonald to provide further information to the court.

Ms Macdonald’s lawyers said Geronimo first tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in September 2017 and has been in isolation since.

Catrin McGahey QC told the court that, following the publicity resulting from Ms Macdonald’s case it had emerged other animals who have been subjected to the same testing regime as Geronimo have showed no signs of the disease after being euthanised.

Geronimo the alpaca
Helen Macdonald in the bio secure pen with Geronimo (Ben Birchall/PA)

The barrister said the publicity had led the Daily Mail to find the owners of nine other camelids who were subject to the same tests whose animals showed no signs of bovine TB after slaughter.

She told the court: “That information absolutely should have been before the two (previous) judges.

“We don’t know if there are more than nine camelids… what we do know is that Defra holds this information.”

Ned Westaway, for Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, said Ms Macdonald has no right of appeal against the last High Court decision, and that this latest court bid was based on “speculation” in a newspaper article.

Mr Westaway added: “The suggestion of material non-disclosure is, frankly, unfounded.”

The judge said she would like Ms Macdonald’s lawyers to decide what evidence they wish Defra to produce and a time estimate of how long that may take before she reaches her decision on whether to grant the injunction.

Mr Westaway said Defra will not execute the warrant until this issue is resolved.

Mrs Justice Stacey is due to make her decision following another hearing at 3.30pm on Wednesday.

If the judge refuses the application, Defra will be able to slaughter Geronimo as there is no further right of appeal for Ms Macdonald.

Ms Macdonald’s lawyers have written to Environment Secretary George Eustice to suggest Geronimo’s life could be saved and instead he could be studied for research.

As well as alpacas, badgers have been a victim of the fight against bovine TB, with mass culling employed to stop the spread since 2013, sparking a huge public backlash.