War of words over Geronimo bovine TB post-mortem test results

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A war of words has broken out over whether Geronimo the alpaca had bovine tuberculosis when he was culled by Government vets.

Supporters of the animal’s owner, Helen Macdonald, claim the initial findings of a post-mortem examination show Geronimo did not have the disease.

But Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said “a number of TB-like lesions were found” during the examination and further tests were to be carried out.

Helen Macdonald has joined a protest outside Defra HQ
Helen Macdonald has joined a protest outside Defra HQ in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The animal was culled after he had twice tested positive for bovine TB, and after Ms Macdonald lost a lengthy legal fight to halt the execution warrant.

Ms Macdonald received a letter from Government lawyers containing the initial findings of the post-mortem examination, which were then reviewed by veterinary surgeons supporting her.

In a statement, Ms Macdonald’s lawyers said: “As reviewed by Dr Iain McGill and Dr Bob Broadbent, the preliminary gross post-mortem findings are negative for visible lesions typical of bovine tuberculosis.

Geronimo was removed from his owner’s farm and euthanised (Claire Hayhurst/PA)

They said that Ms Macdonald had requested the full findings of the post-mortem report and results of additional tests.

In a statement, Dr Middlemiss said: “We have completed the initial post-mortem examination of Geronimo.

“A number of TB-like lesions were found and in line with standard practice these are now undergoing further investigation.

“These tests include the developing of bacteriological cultures from tissue samples which usually takes several months – we would expect to complete the full post-mortem and culture process by the end of the year.”

As the initial findings of the post-mortem examination were released, Ms Macdonald and her supporters were holding a protest outside Defra headquarters in Westminster.

Speaking at the rally, Ms Macdonald renewed her calls for Environment Secretary George Eustice to resign over the post-mortem examination findings.

“We urge the Government to act with compassion and co-operation, which to date has been severely lacking, creating deep and unnecessary distress to Geronimo,” she said.

“We call on the secretary of state to tender his resignation immediately.”

She vowed to fight for animal rights in “honour” of Geronimo.

“Geronimo was a blessing in my life. He touched the world. He was loved and precious to very many people and he lives on,” she said.

“I miss him. But I will do him the honour of fighting for him and making sure his legacy lives on for all animals.”

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