13 Questions DEFRA NEED TO ANSWER on why they Killed Geronimo The Healthy Alpaca!

13 Questions DEFRA NEED TO ANSWER on why they Killed Geronimo The Healthy Alpaca!

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Sarah Portsmouth started this petition to Lord Richard Benyon (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State DEFRA) and

Geronimo The Alpaca lived in Gloucester for the last 4 years of his short life and was horrifically dragged suffocating & terrified, into a waiting trailer and died at some point between his home and the APHA slaughterhouse on 31/8/21 in haunting images that will stay with all those involved for a lifetime & indeed the hundreds of thousands watching the live feed around the world. 

It was carried out by DEFRA when they KNEW that all of the evidence showed that he was not exposed to disease and that he had not contracted bTB in New Zealand (they didn’t even notify NZ that an animal had been imported to the UK with bTB as is required of a notifiable disease) and that he was in a gold standard isolation unit in the UK so he COULD NOT and DID NOT have bTB (as all evidence has continued to support throughout including at Post Mortem & Culturing at APHA Gold Standard labs) but rather than admit this they continued their ‘kill at all costs’ to uphold a failing regime.

DEFRA’s actions alone created a ‘suspicion of disease’ in Geronimo, a healthy alpaca who had been negative in all previous tests in New Zealand, where they have not had an instance of bTB in alpacas for over 20 years as well as testing negative when he was imported from New Zealand to the UK in 2017.

He then settled into his new home with Helen Macdonald, a veterinary nurse and alpaca farmer in Gloucester in his isolation unit (which consists of a paddock, shelter & companions for welfare) joining Helen's 80 strong alpaca herd, who have been bTB free for the 20 years she has had alpacas. She has invested in the highest biosecurity measures accepted as exemplary by Defra and the Courts, with Geronimo and his companions accepted as being of no risk to wildlife or livestock. 

Shortly after Geronimo’s arrival in the UK he underwent a voluntary Enferplex bTB test. Supporting the use of this test for voluntary screening for bTB would be the beginning of a 4 year David and Goliath legal battle for Helen against DEFRA in the search for common sense, truth, transparency and scientific integrity.

The issue was that DEFRA had prior knowledge that giving multiple injections of tuberculin before the Camelid Enferplex blood test (known as priming) produces false-positive test results in healthy camelids and this is exactly what happened to Geronimo in 2017.

DEFRA FAILED to declare this information to Helen. They merely stated that ‘false positives can happen’. 

Instead, they agreed to retest him "exceptionally". So, using their PRIOR KNOWLEDGE they forced him to have yet more tuberculin injections, knowing that this additional tuberculin in his system would be picked up by the test & would allow them to "interpret" the results as positive. 

There was no choice, it was that or immediate slaughter.
They created a "suspicion of disease" to destroy Geronimo in 2017.



The Director of Surefarm (who provide the Enferplex Tests) Alastair Hayton MRCVS, in December 2017 said Enferplex result “not suggestive of a progressive disease state” and “there is a very reasonable doubt, from a clinical and epidemiological perspective as to whether the animal is a true M.Bovis positive, we would continue to highly recommend caution in the interpretation of the results”. But DEFRA ignored the science, the Test Manufacturer and common sense to say that their test results were correct and perhaps most tellingly Mark Spencer, Tory Chief Whip: in The New Statesman, 17 November 2021

When asked why could Geronimo simply could not have another test, he replied “that if the Government gave way, then EVERY FARMER who had seen cattle slaughtered or devalued by a positive tuberculosis test would be up in arms”

This is ABUSE of Power, their Position, the Law and Science.

 

If a test is used by DEFRA which has not had properly conducted field trials then any result should not be accepted as correct. If DEFRA choose not to follow their own documented procedures and protocols, as in Geronimos case, there should be a right to complain or appeal. DEFRA did not offer a complaint procedure and there is no appeals process, their word is final.

Devastatingly, when an animal is classed by DEFRA as a 'bTB reactor' no matter how that result is determined, the system takes over and you have no control over what happens to your animal and he/she WILL be compulsorily slaughtered by law. They only need a suspicion of disease. In desperation to kill Geronimo, during a meeting in 2018, DEFRA even suggested that Geronimo 'caught' bTB at a show in New Zealand, the last being in early 2015!

In the UK you are not allowed to test your animal yourself because it is illegal and in this case the Secretary of State, first Michael Gove and then George Eustice refused to allow permission for all tests to be applied which could be presented to a court as evidence of bTB status following independent expert analysis. Helen only wanted to be treated fairly with correct use of test protocol and evidence based science.

Bovine tuberculosis is a disease affecting mainly cattle which is endemic in England. Alpacas (and camelids) are classed as an spillover species and can contract bTB if exposed to the mycobacteria. It is a disease primarily of the lungs which causes chronic wasting and death, typically within months in camelids. Geronimo was fit and healthy and actually became heavier each year, all whilst having the claimed 'wasting disease' bTB.

When DEFRA enforced the warrant for slaughter at the farm on 31st August 2021, Helen understood that DEFRA were due to discuss a proposal that very day. There was always the provision in law to keep Geronimo in isolation (with his friends) for research purposes. Geronimo's situation could have been used in a very positive way for DEFRA to learn more about bTB vaccination for camelids and cattle, if he contracted bTB in New Zealand as they suggested (but tellingly never notified the NZ authorities of this notifiable disease suspicion). 

Perhaps the real reason why DEFRA did not want to pursue the option of studying Geronimo was because they already knew that he did not have bTB and this would become apparent if he was studied. The talks between Helen's team and DEFRA on this topic had a benefit to DEFRA though; it gave Helen hope that there was a possibility of keeping Geronimo alive.

DEFRA lied. They turned up at the farm with a large police presence and instead of humanely destroying Geronimo on the farm by lethal injection, they chased him around his field and then dragged a terrified, suffocating Geronimo into a waiting trailer and tied his head so tight, he couldn't sit down as per his natural instinct, which falls well short of the animal welfare standards that we expect from a government agency operating in conjunction with the police in a ‘well planned extraction’ as they have claimed.

Given all this relentless horror, deceit and bullying over a 4 year period -  Wouldn't you expect a full explanation if this happened to a healthy animal you love – we certainly would!

They should be simple questions to answer….

What happened to Geronimo after he was dragged suffocating in a Cattle halter from his home into a waiting trailer, having his head tied so tight to the trailer wall, that he couldn’t sit down, as is his natural instinct during transportation, so he may very well have suffocated before he reached his destination– terrified, in immeasurable pain & alone in the trailer during transport, in a clear breach of animal welfare standards and All under APHA Veterinary supervision?

Where is the research & evidence that the test protocol used to condemn Geronimo to death was validated for use in alpacas? DEFRA rely on and quote research papers in correspondence, but have been unable to produce anything with any relevant research. They are unable to produce any data that shows that the Test protocol used to condemn Geronimo to death has had the required or indeed any research carried out into the effect of priming in healthy alpacas prior to testing.

Was there a plan for killing Geronimo at the farm or a plan for his removal as DEFRA have claimed? including using a specialist alpaca halter, knowledge of alpaca handling & transportation, along with documented biosecurity policies & procedures (as you were entering a farm to handle an animal that you claim you suspected of having bTB) as you would surely not want to carry the disease from the farm, but we did not see any measures taken apart from attempts to hide identities from the watching world & media via suits and masks. The images seen around the world showed a chaotic, unplanned & disgraceful abuse of power & blatant flouting of animal welfare, causing extreme pain and suffering to a healthy sentient animal.

…and yet they are still unwilling or unable to answer & provide any evidence.

Why is that?

Thank you to everyone for their continued support in the search for justice and reform��

You can find us on Twitter and Facebook – search ‘We Are Geronimo’ 

What you can do to help;

  • Sign this petition 
  • Donate to Helens £100,000 legal fees that she built up from taking DEFRA to court via her crowd justice page, administered by her solicitors. You can donate to change.org when you sign OR if you want to donate to Helens legal fees, please do so  HERE
  • Send a letter off to Lord Richard Benyon;
    benyonr@parliament.uk, ps.lord.benyon@defra.gov.uk

cc george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk, Christine.middlemiss@defra.gov.uk plus your local MP - you can search for their contact details here; HERE

 

Email content as follows;

…………………………….

Dear Lord Benyon,

As the Minister responsible for the current bTB policy, can you answer the 13 areas below for me, in relation to Geronimo the Alpaca and your understanding of the current research on Deer and Cows, and how this relates to healthy Camelids that have not been primed with tuberculin beforehand.

1. In 2016, during a meeting between DEFRA/ APHA and stakeholders and representatives of the British Alpaca Society, it was minuted and acknowledged by Dr Shelley Rhodes that she had seen data confirming the observation that ”Alpacas that had receive more than 1 skin test (which includes an injection of tuberculin) in the last 12 months going inexplicably positive when tested with the Enferplex test”.

2. 13 eminent Veterinary Surgeons (including a couple of Professors) penned an open letter to the Vet Times that raised reservations on Geronimo’s positive diagnosis from 2017 (dated August the 23rd 2021  the link can be found- HERE

3. The directors of SureFarm, who provide Enferplex testing also suggested the test results may have returned a false positive and I quote Alastair Hayton MRCVS, dated December 2017 Enferplex result “not suggestive of a progressive disease state” and “there is a very reasonable doubt, from a clinical and epidemiological perspective as to whether the animal is a true M.Bovis positive, we would continue to highly recommend caution in the interpretation of the results” I seem to recall reading that DEFRA were unhappy with this statement and questioned whether they could continue to use their tests.

4. Dr Eleanor Brown, a DEFRA bTB Specialist stated in the High Court as recently as August 2021 and 4 years after the event that ‘a randomised field trial would be needed to determine whether Alpacas that had received multiple Tuberculin injections were true bTB positives’ as Dr Shelley Rhodes, as per point number 1, suggested back in 2016, which also correlates with point 3 above.

5. The references that you and DEFRA have provided to interested parties are not related to validation studies in Alpacas that had received multiple bTB injections pretesting but actually relate to cows and deer (Ruminants), rather than Alpacas (Camelids). Indeed, the referenced study, carried out by Wates et al in 2015 in the US found no boost in antibody responses in bTB-free cattle and IM administration of tuberculin. This is the piece of research that Dr R de la Rua-Domenech directly referenced in his paper, published June 2021 when he said these results “could not be extrapolated to Camelids” (see point 8 below).

6. According to the literature on the classification and evolution of Camelids, they are different to Ruminants (Cow and Deer) taxonomically, physiologically, immunologically, and behaviourally, and from a Veterinary standpoint, Camelids and Ruminants differ in susceptibility to infections and parasitic diseases. Indeed, your own literature classify camelids are overspill species in relation to bTB. Modern palaeontologic and taxonomic Scientists clearly state that Camelids belong in a separate sub order Tylopoda in the order Artiodactyla, which is distinct from the sub order Ruminantia. Why would your experts assume these 3 species would respond in the same way to protocols when the Enferplex test is different for camelids compared to cattle?

7. You deem it unnecessary to carry out a bespoke field trial to specifically assess the effect of multiple Tuberculin injections in Alpacas prior to antibody blood testing, as suggested by Dr Eleanor Brown ( point 4 above). Why exactly is that given camelids are a unique species?

8. You have continually referenced the document entitled ‘ the anamnestic boost effect of the skin test to the antibody responses to Myobacterium in camelids – summary of evidence by Dr R de la Rua-Domenech but in it there is no reference to the Enferplex test and the author confirmed “it has not been possible to assess this in camelids” and strangely I am no longer able to find reference to this document in the public domain, it appears to have been taken ‘offline’.

9. Is there a specific piece of research that extrapolates/ correlates the results between Deer, Cows, and Alpacas as I cannot find any, although I do not have access the Veterinary research journals?

10. To the best of your knowledge, have there been studies into the effects of multiple tuberculin priming in healthy Cattle and Deer prior to Enferplex testing?

11. Is there any research you can share that shows the specificity of the bTB antibody test from a bespoke and randomised field trial on Alpacas that were not in a herd breakdown or within one mile of a confirmed bTB herd breakdown in cattle?

12. Are there any publicly available plans/ intentions to carry out a bespoke and randomised field trial to specifically assess the effects of tuberculin injections in Alpacas, a requirement clearly identified by Dr Eleanor Brown, a DEFRA bTB Specialist in the High Court in August 2021 and repeatedly asked for by the British Alpaca Society since 2016?

13. Why did you fail to recognise the relevance and uphold the significance of the highest biosecurity standards as acknowledged by APHA on Geronimo's farm since his arrival in 2017? Such a facility should be your aspiration for the future of farming because the possibility of diseases such as bTB spreading between species can and is fully prevented by the implementation of vector proof perimeter fencing and wide boundary margins. However, it was within this context that you denied the possibility that the only suspicion of disease had been created by DEFRA/APHA by the deliberate misuse of a test that has never been validated in healthy Alpacas that were not in a herd breakdown or within one mile of a confirmed bTB herd breakdown in cattle

 

yours sincerely 

 

(insert your name & address)

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