Geronimo the alpaca: test results unable to confirm bovine tb

14 December 2021


Born Free comment on news released this week. 

Defra have confirmed that TB tests carried out on Geronimo the alpaca have been unable to prove the animal had the disease.

Defra officials removed Geronimo from his owner Helen Macdonald’s farm on 31 August, after a long drawn out legal dispute over the disease status of the alpaca. The alpaca was subsequently killed and subject to a post mortem. 

Defra claimed that the initial post mortem examination revealed the presence of what it believed to be TB like lesions. Over the past few months the Animal and Plant Health Agency has been trying to culture these lesions, but Defra has now confirmed this has not proved possible. 

Defra continues to claim this does not mean Geronimo was definitely free of TB, as he tested positive for the disease twice during his lifetime.

A photo of a black alpaca standing in a grassy field.
Image credit: Helen Macdonald/Twitter

Helen MacDonald has argued that the TB testing process used on Geronimo was flawed and the alpaca should never have been killed without a further TB test being undertaken using a more accurate phage PCR blood test. She believes the APHA was not able to culture bacteria from tissue samples, because no bacteria existed. 

Born Free supported Helen MacDonald in her campaign to prevent Geronimo being killed without a further TB test. 

Responding to the latest post mortem results Born Free Policy Advisor Dominic Dyer said: “DEFRA has spent a huge amount tax payers money and resources on trying to prove that Geronimo had bovine TB, but now it appears very likely that the alpaca was disease free and killed for no justifiable reason. 

“Livestock farmers and alpaca breeders need access to the most accurate test methods for bovine TB control to prevent the spread of this disease within their herds and to wildlife. 

“Badgers are wrongly blamed for spreading TB to cattle and are being killed in huge numbers in a costly, cruel and ineffective disease control policy and Born Free continues to campaign for an end to badger culling.

“Lessons need to be learned from this tragic episode and Defra need to use the public outcry over the death of Geronimo to undertake a wide ranging review of bovine TB testing policy. This will be in the best interests of taxpayers, farmers, alpaca breeders and the future protection of badgers.”