Geronimo the alpaca, whose fight for life after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) has been headline news in Britain, was euthanized by government vets on Tuesday, officials said.
Geronimo was put down by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) after he recorded two positive tests for the disease and his owner lost multiple court bids to prevent his destruction.
Helen Macdonald, who imported Geronimo in 2016 from New Zealand to her alpaca farm in western England, took the government to court, arguing that the test results were likely false positives.
Nearly 142,000 people signed a petition this month in support, arguing it was “killing healthy alpacas without valid science” and calling for the animal to be given a reprieve.
But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has insisted its tests are “highly specific and reliable” and that Geronimo must be put down to control the spread of bovine TB.
“This is a terribly sad situation and our sympathies remain with all those affected by this devastating disease,” the UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said Tuesday as Geronimo’s fate was confirmed.
“No one wants to have to cull infected animals if it can be avoided,” she added.
“But we need to follow the scientific evidence and cull animals that have tested positive for bTB to minimize spread of this insidious disease and ultimately eradicate the biggest threat to animal health in this country.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his sympathies were with Macdonald and other animal owners confronted with this “terrible disease.”
“It’s obviously highly distressing for someone to lose animals to (bovine) TB and that’s a situation that farmers sadly have to face,” he added.
A post mortem examination will now be undertaken by APHA veterinary pathologists, followed by a bacteriological culture of selected tissue samples which can take up to three months, the government said.
Macdonald has said the type of bovine TB test used is fundamentally flawed, arguing injections of tuberculin, a purified protein derivative of bTB bacteria used to test animals’ immune response, can produce false-positive results.
But a High Court judge earlier this month refused her lawyer’s application for a temporary injunction to stop him being euthanized.