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Alpaca Set for Execution Gets a Human Shield

Male tested positive for bovine tuberculosis; supporters say the tests are flawed
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2021 10:35 AM CDT
100K Appeal to Save Alpaca Set for Execution
Geronimo the alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wotton-Under-Edge, England, with owner Helen Macdonald on Monday.   (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

(Newser) – If dogs are man's best friend, alpacas must not be far behind, given that more than 100,000 people are appealing to save an alpaca in England from execution. Geronimo, an 8-year-old who came to Gloucestershire from New Zealand four years ago, tested positive for bovine tuberculosis when his owner had him voluntarily tested soon after his arrival, per the BBC. A rep for the British Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs on Tuesday described the contagious disease as "one of the greatest animal health threats we face today." Hence why, after years of appeals, the isolated Geronimo is to be culled, per the New York Times. Supporters, however, say the TB tests produce false positives. And Geronimo's owner, veterinary nurse Helen Macdonald, says that, four years on, the camelid isn't showing any symptoms of the disease, which usually triggers severe weight loss.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice says Geronimo has tested positive twice. Authorities say the chance of a false positive is less than 1%. But a veterinary surgeon who's examined Geronimo disagrees. Bob Broadbent tells the Times that DEFRA's test requires an injection of "tuberculin" as "a primer" up to 30 days in advance, and the tests, when used on alpacas, detect the tuberculin rather than a legitimate case of bovine tuberculosis. While Macdonald has already exhausted her appeals in the case, supporters have come to her defense, creating a 24-hour-a-day human shield meant to protect Geronimo from executioners, who could arrive at Macdonald's farm anytime in the next three weeks. They're backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's father and more than 115,000 signers of a petition asking Johnson to intervene. (Read more alpaca stories.)

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