Save Geronimo - Stop killing healthy alpacas without valid science

by Helen Macdonald

Save Geronimo - Stop killing healthy alpacas without valid science

by Helen Macdonald
Helen Macdonald
Case Owner
I am crowd funding to get justice for Geronimo after an 11 month battle against the Government. His is a unique scenario. We want to learn so that healthy alpacas can be tested for bovine tb safely.
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Helen Macdonald
Case Owner
I am crowd funding to get justice for Geronimo after an 11 month battle against the Government. His is a unique scenario. We want to learn so that healthy alpacas can be tested for bovine tb safely.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Jan. 31, 2020

Latest news - Friday 31st January 2020

On the eve of new beginnings, we are still awaiting a response to our letter to Theresa Villiers dated 27 November 2019 requesting a meeting to review Geronimo's case as a matter of urgency.


Since…

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Geronimo the alpaca needs your help! Team Geronimo need your help. We are being forced to take legal action against DEFRA and the Farming Minister George Eustice. Please contribute to this fund and share this page on Facebook and Twitter now.

I have been farming alpacas for 16 years and have always been proactive about their welfare. As a veterinary nurse I understand how important good bio security and surveillance health testing is to the entire UK livestock industry. We have carried out a bovine tuberculosis (btb) voluntary test in good faith and are now being punished for it by DEFRA.


What is the case?

I find myself having to challenge DEFRA and the Farming Minister George Eustice in Court because they refuse to accept that unvalidated test protocols can produce false positive results. 

This is a basic biological fact and we now know they are fully aware of the issues with this test, yet they choose to try and force me into slaughtering Geronimo, a healthy 6 year old imported alpaca, with only supposition and biased protocols to support their position.

We have asked DEFRA for the last 11 months to investigate. We are asking for an inexpensive blood test (which we will pay for) in order to understand what has happened in this unique situation. We are not asking for a pardon, only expecting DEFRA to behave in a fair and reasonable manner. 

Their 'kill at all costs' policy will result in the untimely and unnecessary slaughter of this alpaca unless they are forced to be reasonable.

How much am I raising and why?

In total, we need to raise £25,000 for legal fees to commence our challenge to this government department. Initially, we are raising £5,000 but then will need all your support to get to £25,000. This is the only course of action left to us.


This is about more than Geronimo

Other camelids and their owners may find themselves in a similar position unless we can change their attitudes and learn from new science. 

No one wants btb in their animals but camelid owners will refuse to test voluntarily unless DEFRA agree to work with the industry rather than against it.


Any support you can provide - contributing anything and sharing the page - will make a massive difference.

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Update 11

Helen Macdonald

Jan. 31, 2020

Latest news - Friday 31st January 2020

On the eve of new beginnings, we are still awaiting a response to our letter to Theresa Villiers dated 27 November 2019 requesting a meeting to review Geronimo's case as a matter of urgency.


Since the General Election result last month, we have also been in communication with our local Member of Parliament, Luke Hall MP (Con). On Friday 24 January 2020, after a meeting that I had with Mr Hall's assistant, Mr Hall wrote a letter to George Eustice MP (Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister responsible for making the order to slaughter Geronimo) requesting a meeting between himself, Mr Eustice, and me with the aim of resolving Geronimo's case. We have been advised that we can expect a response from Mr Eustice by Friday 7 February 2020.


It is clear to us that Mr Eustice may not fully have considered all the evidence and/or did not fully appreciate the proper interpretation of the evidence that was considered in the lead up to his decision to order the slaughter of Geronimo. He now has the opportunity to work with me and my local MP to revisit the evidence, resolve this situation and ensure that it never happens again.


We have only ever asked for fair treatment and for a valid testing regime to be applied to Geronimo. The relevant ministers must take responsibility for their actions and resolve this now.'

Helen & G

#savegeronimo #wesupportgeronimo #nodisease #noevidence #testnotslaughter #theresavilliers #georgeeustice #brexiteve

Update 10

Helen Macdonald

Jan. 20, 2020

Geronimo on TV

Geronimo on TV - ITV West County News - Tuesday 14th January 2020.

Link; 

https://www.facebook.com/katie.rowlett.75/videos/o.294945851206464/2497143237274047/?type=2&theater

The news item features Geronimo's vet, Bob Broadbent MRCVS, who explains very clearly DEFRA's use of unvalidated tests in camelids. 

Thank you so much to Katie Rowlett and the team at ITV for reporting Geronimo's story with clarity and accuracy.

We have only ever asked for a valid test to be used and 2.5 years on we continue to ask for the right to fair treatment by the Government. 

We have asked Theresa Villiers to meet with us to review Geronimo's case.

We hope that, unlike her predecessor, Ms Villiers will accept that there is no scientific foundation for suspecting bTB in our perfectly healthy boy.

We also hope that the new Secretary of State will realise that blaming New Zealand for allowing the export of an allegedly bTB-positive into the UK (which DEFRA has previously done) is immoral, absurd and wholly unacceptable.

Please share this post, ask others to join the campaign and donate when you can. Costs continue while we fight for the right for Geronimo and all camelids to have access to valid tests. 

Onwards!

Helen and Geronimo

Update 9

Helen Macdonald

Jan. 12, 2020

Awaiting response from Secretary of State

On 27th November 2019 I wrote a letter to the Secretary of State DEFRA, The Right Honourable Theresa Villiers MP.

On the 11th December 2019, I received in the post an acknowledgment letter from her Private Secretary. This was very welcome, thank you! 🙂

(In the past I have sent several letters to George Eustice and Michael Gove and never received so much as an acknowledgement.)

Now that the General Election, Christmas, New Year and indeed 2019 is over, we look forward to a positive response to our request for a meeting to review Geronimo's case as soon as possible.

We hope that, unlike her predecessor, Ms Villiers will accept that there is no scientific foundation for suspecting bTB in our perfectly healthy boy.

We also hope that the new Secretary of State will realise that blaming New Zealand for allowing the export of an allegedly bTB-positive into the UK (which DEFRA has previously done) is immoral, absurd and wholly unacceptable.

We will continue to seek the further testing of Geronimo and fair treatment from this Conservative government.

We thank you all so much for your continued support ❤️❤️❤️ 

Helen and Geronimo xxx

Update 8

Helen Macdonald

Dec. 5, 2019

Letter sent to Theresa Villiers

Following on from my last post, I have written to Theresa Villiers asking her to review Geronimo's case and to consent to a meeting with me as a matter of urgency. 

We hope that, unlike her predecessor, Ms Villiers will accept that there is no scientific foundation for suspecting bTB in our perfectly healthy boy (whose excellent health an expert camelid vet confirmed following a full non-invasive clinical examination of Geronimo just last month). 

We also hope that the new Secretary of State will realise that blaming New Zealand for allowing the export of an allegedly bTB-positive into the UK (which DEFRA has previously done) is immoral, absurd and wholly unacceptable.

We will continue to seek the further testing of Geronimo and fair treatment from this Conservative government.

Thank you everyone for helping us get justice for Geronimo by sharing his story and pledging to help keep us going. Onwards!

Update 7

Helen Macdonald

Dec. 3, 2019

Outcome of Court of Appeal Application

It is with extreme disappointment that we must report that, on 13 November 2019, the Court of Appeal refused our application for permission to appeal the High Court's Order dated 9 July 2019. This means that the Court of Appeal has refused to even hear Geronimo's case. As such, the Secretary of State's decision to slaughter Geronimo stands and we have no further right to appeal the decision in an English court, although we are considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Needless to say, we find both decisions utterly confounding. According to the reasoning of the Court of Appeal, the Minister was "reasonably entitled" to conclude that it was unnecessary for further tests to be carried out on Geronimo because to permit this in circumstances where an animal had already tested positive twice for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) would "lead to dispute in numerous cases and would unnecessarily disrupt and undermine the testing regime."

In our view, this reasoning fails to take proper account of the interests of owners who (as in this case) have raised very legitimate doubts about the accuracy of the testing regime itself. Furthermore, the reasoning does not properly address the lack of a viable explanation by the Secretary of State as to when and where Geronimo is supposed to have contracted bTB, nor the fact that Geronimo (and the 5 alpacas with whom he is held in isolation) continue to exhibit absolutely no clinical signs of a bTB infection.

Finally, it is important to note that neither Court stated that it believed that Geronimo actually has bTB; each Court merely concluded that the Secretary of State's decision, whether correct or not, could not be labelled "irrational" (and therefore subject to being quashed).

We have until 13 May 2020 to make an application to the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, we will strongly contest any attempt by the Secretary of State to slaughter Geronimo. We have recently written to DEFRA to request that the Secretary of State order the further testing of Geronimo for bTB (this time in accordance with a suitable protocol that avoids the serious shortcomings of the protocol employed by DEFRA during the last two tests upon which Geronimo tested positive in 2017). We hope that the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Theresa Villiers, will pay greater regard to the science of this unique case than her predecessor, Michael Gove, and that she will permit the further testing of Geronimo (which Mr Gove legally denied us). A copy of our letter to Theresa Villiers is attached.

It is now almost 5 years since the last occasion upon which Geronimo could hypothetically have been exposed to bTB (i.e. at a show in Rotorua, New Zealand in January 2015). Despite this, Geronimo appears, in the words of an expert camelid vet who recently examined him, "to grow ever healthier". Given the overwhelming evidence pointing to Geronimo's ongoing good health, we will continue to use every avenue still available to us to resist his needless slaughter at the hands of a cruel and unreflective government.



Update 6

Helen Macdonald

July 26, 2019

Geronimo's High Court Judgement

“On 9 July 2019, Mr Justice Murray sitting in the High Court handed down judgment in Geronimo’s case. Unfortunately, the Judge ruled that the Court does not have the power to quash the Secretary of State’s decision to order the slaughter of Geronimo. As such, the decision to slaughter Geronimo stands. Unless the Court’s decision is successfully appealed, Geronimo will soon be slaughtered. We are in the process of filing an application for permission to appeal, which we expect will be filed by the end of this month. Our hope is that it will be heard as early as possible in the new Court term, which starts in October. In the meantime, the Court has made an order preventing the Secretary of State from slaughtering Geronimo whilst our application is outstanding.



While Mr Justice Murray found that Geronimo’s two positive test results for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) may be inaccurate, he disagreed with our submission that the Secretary of State had behaved irrationally in deciding to slaughter Geronimo. The Judge held that the Secretary of State had given due regard to the conflicting scientific opinions as to the accuracy of the two test results and that, in any event, the two results “provide strong evidence, to a high degree of certainty” that Geronimo is infected with bTB. The Judge also had regard to what he considered to be the “contagious nature of bTB and the devastating effect it can have on other animals, bovine and non-bovine, including the risk to humans.”

 


We are very disappointed with the High Court’s judgment. We believe that, apart from the two highly questionable test results (based on tests prior to which Geronimo was primed multiple times with tuberculin), all of the evidence indicates that Geronimo is not infected with bTB. Geronimo still displays no clinical signs of bTB, nor do the other alpacas that have been held in isolation with Geronimo for the last two years. It is hard to square these hard facts with a view that Geronimo is in fact infected with this devastating disease.

 


All we have ever asked is that Geronimo be tested according to a protocol that avoids the scientifically uncertain results of priming a camelid with tuberculin multiple times before subjecting that animal to a bTB blood test. It is part of my duty of care as an owner and my right to expect fair treatment from my government that Geronimo is tested correctly. I am also deeply concerned that the High Court’s decision may have very negative implications for the voluntary surveillance testing of camelids for bTB in this country. This is why we continue the fight by making our application to the Court of Appeal.”

Update 5

Helen Macdonald

March 8, 2019

High Court hearing update

High Court hearing update

On Wednesday 6 March 2019, we attended the Royal Courts of Justice in London where Geronimo's case was heard by High Court Judge, Mr Justice Murray.

After hearing the submissions from both sides, Mr Justice Murray ultimately decided that he required more time to give the case the proper consideration it deserved. He therefore decided to reserve judgment until a later date. We expect to receive the Judge's decision within the next 2 months. We presented what we regard to be a powerful and compelling case to the Court and remain hopeful that we will be granted the declaration we have sought.  

Geronimo remains fit and well and we look forward to receiving the judgment in due course.

Thank you all so much for your continued support!

Helen

Update 4

Helen Macdonald

Jan. 10, 2019

We have a date for Geronimo's Court Case.

A full-day substantive judicial review hearing of Geronimo's case will take place before a High Court judge on 6 March 2019.

As the Secretary of State has rejected our latest request for the further testing of Geronimo, we do not expect that this substantive hearing can be avoided. We are therefore pursuing our preparations for the hearing in earnest, whereby we (and the government) continue to incur wholly unnecessary expenditure. By refusing a re-test, the Secretary of State has also foregone an invaluable opportunity to broaden his understanding of the accuracy and sustainability of the bTB testing procedures currently in place for camelids in this country.

I look forward to presenting the High Court judge in March with what I believe to be a very strong case that Geronimo is not in fact infected with bTB. I hope that the judge, with all the science before him/her, will agree that the Secretary of State's decision to slaughter Geronimo is irrational and unlawful and therefore must be quashed.

Thank you so much for support, this really is people power in action!

We still need your help. Please share and pledge if you can to help us reach our target.

Update 3

Helen Macdonald

Nov. 17, 2018

High Court grants us permission to apply for judicial review!

Geronimo Supporters - Good news!

We are pleased to say that, on 5 November 2018, the High Court granted us permission to apply for judicial review. This means that the High Court considered our case to have sufficient merit such that it can now proceed to a substantive hearing. 

We do not yet have a date for the hearing, but we do not expect it to be heard before the Spring of 2019. The High Court denied a request by DEFRA to have the hearing expedited.

We continue to try to engage with the Secretary of State and his advisers in the hope that he will reconsider his position and consent to the further testing of Geronimo, thereby avoiding the need for the substantive hearing and saving wholly unnecessary expenditure.

Just as importantly, we all need to take this opportunity to broaden our learning and understanding of the accuracy and suitability of the bTB testing procedure for camelids currently in place. Until this happens, and while the Secretary of State continues to insist that Geronimo be slaughtered on the basis of two flawed test results, I welcome the opportunity to present Geronimo's case to a High Court judge.

Thank you so very much for your continued support, it really does help us stay strong. 

Please share this news and help us raise the funds to see this through.



Update 2

Helen Macdonald

Oct. 18, 2018

We have applied for judicial review!

Geronimo remains fit and healthy more than 14 months since his arrival into the UK and is enjoying his second autumn.

 Since my last update, unfortunately neither DEFRA nor the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mr Michael Gove, have taken up the invitation to seek resolution of this unique case outside of the courts. I do not understand their refusal to consider fully all the new evidence alongside myself and the wider camelid industry. Instead, DEFRA and Mr Gove simply continue to insist that Geronimo must be slaughtered.

As a consequence, I have now sought permission from the High Court to apply for judicial review. As part of this application, yesterday the High Court ordered that neither the Secretary of State nor his agents should take any steps to remove or slaughter Geronimo (which extends to seeking to obtain a warrant from a Magistrates' Court for Geronimo's removal from my property for slaughter) pending its decision on whether to grant me permission to apply for judicial review. 

My hope in applying for judicial review is that the High Court, with all the evidence before it, will realise that the decision to slaughter Geronimo is not supported by science, and is ultimately irrational. I hope that it will exercise its judicial discretion to quash the decision taken on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Please bear with us whilst our legal team do what is required and we will continue to update you as matters proceed.

Our heartfelt thanks go to each and every one of you for your continued help and support, which has ensured that the fight can continue.

Update 1

Helen Macdonald

Sept. 10, 2018

Geronimo's update - what is happening now?

Thank you for your continued support and interest in Geronimo's case. Here is a quick update on what has happened since we reached our first target.

We are currently working hard behind the scenes preparing our legal challenge and that is where the money so far raised is being used.

Since the £5,000 target was reached we have had continued press coverage as well as radio interviews. 

A joint statement has been made by the council of British Camelids Ltd along with the British Llama Society (BLS) and the British Alpaca Society (BAS) in support of our application for judicial review. This is hugely appreciated given the specifics of Geronimo's situation and the implications for all camelids in the UK. 

All of your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Help is coming in many ways and demonstrates just how emotive Geronimo's case is. You are contacting your MP's and receiving responses as well as sharing, tweeting and talking about Geronimo's story. We would struggle to fight for justice without your support.


Thank you so much. We will keep you updated on further developments.

Very best wishes

Helen

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