London. The case dominated the headlines and moved many people: after a long argument, the alpaca Geronimo was killed two weeks ago in England. The animal was euthanized to prevent the spread of deadly and contagious bovine tuberculosis, the Department of Agriculture announced in London. Owner Helen MacDonald speaks about the case in an interview with RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).
Ms. MacDonald, two weeks ago Geronimo was picked up by veterinarians accompanied by the police and then killed because he allegedly had bovine tuberculosis. How are you now?
I can’t get the pictures out of my head, I’ll never get over that. The vets didn’t even know how to put a halter on him and brutally pushed him into the box. It’s horrible that I don’t know exactly how he died and where exactly they took him. It was just so unnecessary.
The Ministry of Agriculture continues to claim that Geronimo had bovine tuberculosis.
Yes, but they still haven’t provided any evidence of this since he was killed, not a single one. There is no laboratory finding to support this. They are mere assertions.
You fought for Geronimo’s life for four years. How did that happen?
It was then that Geronimo was suspected of having bovine tuberculosis. This was found out through skin tests, which, however, are not very reliable. I then wanted to get the court to have a blood test done. So I wanted to prove that he was healthy. However, I have been denied this time and again.
The Department of Agriculture replies that they must stick to the scientific evidence and kill animals that have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.
I am not saying that this disease is not a problem. It’s a big problem. Tens of thousands of animals are killed annually in the UK to prevent spread after outbreaks. But firstly, Geronimo had no bovine tuberculosis at all and secondly, there are alternatives: better tests, for example – or isolating the animals.
Geronimo’s fate moves people all over the world. How do they express their concern?
There is great dismay at what happened. Many people send me emails and letters describing how sad they are. Some send flowers, others send money. Children paint pictures of Geronimo – even though he is now dead.
How do you explain that?
I believe that his story particularly touched people in times of the pandemic. In addition, alpacas are very cute animals. So he became a kind of “posterboy” for my fight against the authorities and received more and more media attention.
Until he was picked up by the authorities in front of the cameras.
I think they wanted to show publicly that they shouldn’t mess with the Ministry of Agriculture. This country could have used good news in these gloomy times. You could have said: We’re not going to kill the little alpaca now. We just leave it where it is so it can’t harm anyone.
So you would have kept Geronimo?
Yes, of couse. I would never have sold it. He could have lived on here. But instead they killed him and now I have to pick up the broken pieces and figure out how to proceed.
Do you feel that your years of struggle have now been in vain?
No, because as bad as it is: I’m glad Geronimo didn’t die quietly. Many people have heard that he was killed for no reason. We have drawn attention to a bigger problem.
What are you planning now?
I need a break now. In the long term, however, we have to find out what exactly happened to Geronimo. Someone has to be held accountable. And in the event that my remaining 18 alpacas should also be tested, I will go to court again.