18 Aug Geronimo the alpaca lives to fight another day as High Court hearing postponed | UK News
An alpaca whose life hangs in the balance will live another day after an urgent High Court hearing was adjourned.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has ordered the destruction of Geronimo after the animal twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.
But his owner Helen Macdonald believes the tests are returning false positives. She has been refused permission to have a third test.
Earlier this month she lost her appeal at the High Court in London to save the alpaca and a warrant was signed for its destruction.
The case has been met with a wave of support from the public, with more than 130,000 people signing a petition calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to halt the killing.
Ms Macdonald, who owns a farm at Wickwar near Bristol, imported Geronimo from New Zealand in 2017.
An urgent application for a temporary injunction to halt the enforcement of the destruction order was considered by Mrs Justice Stacey at the High Court in London on Tuesday.
The judge said she would need further informational from both Ms Macdonald and government lawyers before making a decision. The hearing will now resume on Wednesday afternoon.
Lawyers for Ms Macdonald told the court Geronimo first tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in September 2017 and has been living in isolation since.
Catrin McGahey QC told the court that though Defra has argued in previous hearings that there was a “residual risk” to other animals, they had also agreed that Ms Macdonald’s bio-security arrangements are “impeccable”.
She also argued that following publicity of Geronimo’s case it had emerged in a newspaper that other animals subjected to the same testing regime as the alpaca have showed no signs of the disease after being euthanised.
She told the court: “That information absolutely should have been before the two (previous) judges.”
Ned Westaway, for Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, argued that Ms Macdonald has no right of appeal against the previous High Court decision and that “speculation” from a newspaper article was the basis of the latest court bid.
Mr Westaway said: “The suggestion of material non-disclosure (from Defra) is, frankly, unfounded.”
He also confirmed Defra will not execute the warrant until this issue is resolved.
The judge said that Ms Macdonald’s lawyers should decide what evidence they want Defra to produce and a time estimate of how long that may take before reaching a decision on whether to grant the injunction.
She added the delay for that further information to be obtained was no indication of her ultimate decision.
Defra will be able to slaughter Geronimo if the judge refuses the application as there is no further right to appeal for Ms Macdonald. He will survive until a further hearing can be held if the application is granted.
Last week the government insisted it had looked “very carefully” at all the evidence on the animal’s condition.
A Defra spokesman said: “There are no plans to execute the warrant today.
“We are sympathetic to Ms Macdonald’s situation, just as we are with everyone with animals affected by this terrible disease.
“It is for this reason that the testing results and options for Geronimo have been very carefully considered by Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and its veterinary experts, as well as passing several stages of thorough legal scrutiny.”
The British Alpaca Society said the case between Defra and Ms Macdonald has “considerably undermined confidence” in the voluntary bovine TB testing regime in the UK.
Badgers have also been a victim of the fight against bovine TB, with mass culling employed to stop the spread since 2013, sparking a public backlash.