by Annette J Beveridge
We chanted ‘Save Geronimo,’ ‘Re-test -Not Death,’ and ‘Re-test Geronimo,’ to our audience of newspaper reporters and TV crews and our pleas were heartfelt.
At the time of writing, the Alpaca making all the headlines is sadly living on borrowed time. Unless DEFRA agree to reconsider, Geronimo has fewer than 30 days of life left. The question must be why would DEFRA order a healthy animal to be culled if there was any concern about the effectiveness of the test given? As I researched, I felt that this is exactly what happened.
We know that TB is a serious disease. When it comes to precious animals, it is all too easy to let heart rule over head, but the truth is important – whether good or bad. The tests given thus far only have approximately 50% accuracy so it is not uncommon for false positives to occur especially when multiple injections of tuberculin are given beforehand as in this case.
It is hard to fully imagine how Geronimo’s owner must feel at this time. Helen MacDonald has been fighting for years to gain a more accurate test – one that is better for Alpacas. There is one, a blood test, and yet, this has been denied to her by DEFRA. Why? It could alleviate all uncertainty – one more test really is the power of life and death. With DEFRA sticking to their guns, we must question how many animals have already been culled as a result of a false positive. Post mortems often reveal that culled animals are clear of TB. What a senseless waste.
This reliance on an inaccurate test calls to question the amount of cattle that may be culled unnecessarily and why badgers are culled when many have been vaccinated for bovine TB (bTB). At the moment, DEFRA are caught in the glare of media attention and it seems they won’t back down. There is the possibility that they will wait for the media attention to fade and then send someone to shoot Geronimo. One bullet to the head is all that it takes. There are however, people there to protect Geronimo, such is the strength of conviction that he does not have TB.
I joined the protest in London outside DEFRA headquarters. We were not a large group, but what we lacked in numbers, we made up for with determination. I met many Alpaca owners and animal lovers who were prepared to fight to save Geronimo. It was heartening to be among this crowd and the message was a positive one. We just wanted DEFRA to rethink their position and to re-test Geronimo. If they agreed, the right test had to be used. At the heart of the protest was Dominic Dyer – author and experienced animal campaigner who regaled the situation to the media masses with aplomb. We then walked towards Downing St chanting as we went. No violence, no aggression, just a genuine plea for DEFRA to rethink their situation. When I caught the train back home, and scanned the online news sections, I could see Geronimo’s face splashed everywhere. This was so important. For people to care, they had to see him.
I have had many people ask me why this one animal is so important. Yes, we all want to save Geronimo. Why not? If he is free from TB, he can have the life that he has been denied up to now. Farmers have had to lose cattle for years, and it is possible that cattle have died unnecessarily too. So, the fight may be for Geronimo but it highlights the plight of farmers and the need to improve the whole testing process. Stopping the badger cull would be another positive step because there are other options.
In my opinion, each life is important and if the process is flawed – change it. Animals must no longer be considered as commodities. These are sentient creatures and should be treated as such. DEFRA have a responsibility to do the right thing because none of this was necessary. If DEFRA stubbornly sticks to their decision, we have to question why the refusal to re-test? Are they worried about losing face? Why will they not renegotiate?
If DEFRA do not do the right thing, then we need Boris Johnson to overturn DEFRA’s decision. Stanley Johnson has already expressed his personal feelings about the test and a petition to save Geronimo has now reached over 113,000 signatures. You can add your name here if you want to help save Geronimo too.
If Geronimo dies and it is established that he was clear of TB, then, this will rightly cause public outrage. Many questions will be asked of George Eustace – the Environment Secretary who is at the heart of this decision. It is important that all involved should sit down and discuss calmly and logically and consider all options. There must be another way.
As animal campaigners, the conviction to fight on is strong if needed. We must SAVE GERONIMO.