Farmers and vets hope the high-profile case of Geronimo the Alpaca will help raise awareness of the devastating financial and emotional impact of bovine tuberculosis on the industry.

Government vets have 28 days from Thursday August 5 to euthanize Geronimo after his owner, alpaca farmer and breeder Helen Macdonald, lost a legal battle.

The High Court in London ruled last week that the alpaca must be slaughtered to protect cattle from bovine tuberculosis.

See also: A farmer fighting bovine tuberculosis with Defra to save the alpaca

The case has sparked a national conversation about the reliability of the bovine tuberculosis screening regime and the slaughter of thousands of animals each year because of the disease, which Defra says costs taxpayers more than $ 100 million. pounds sterling per year.

The latest government statistics show that in the 12 months to the end of March this year, 38,841 cattle have been slaughtered in Britain because of bovine tuberculosis.

Breeders and vets say they have immense sympathy for Ms Macdonald’s plight, but say her case is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the suffering caused by the disease on a daily basis.

Tuberculosis devastation among farmers

Sarah Tomlinson, a Derbyshire-based farm vet and bovine tuberculosis expert who is part of Defra’s Bovine Tuberculosis Partnership, said: “The emotion that this lady [Helen Macdonald] is what my farmers go through every time they have reactors running.

“I cried in the farmers’ kitchens because the cows are going to be culled. I remember a terrible case of a farmer whose daughter had raised a calf since he was a baby and he had to leave because it was a reactor.

“This public platform should be used by the agricultural industry to raise awareness of the seriousness of this disease.”

Ms Tomlinson said many cattle are slaughtered after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis despite appearing “fit and healthy” and showing no signs of the disease.

She described the current TB tests as “not perfect,” but said the rules are clear and the alpaca should be slaughtered. “The government cannot just pass rules and regulations on a whim,” she added.

Phil Latham, Cheshire dairy farmer and Nuffield scholar, who milked around 500 brown Swiss cows near Nantwich, Cheshire, said the alpaca had failed two Enferplex (blood) tests – a voluntary tuberculosis test government approved for camels and supported by British Alpaca. Society.

“The animal could have disappeared. It should have gone a long time ago. It’s a shame he didn’t do it, ”Mr. Latham said.

“This highlights the lack of integration into the system. Either we have a system or we don’t. It is impossible – as we know – to reduce tuberculosis with an exclusively bovine approach. “

“Emotional nonsense”

Mr Latham said farmers never receive the same level of indulgence from Defra and the mainstream media when their animals test positive for bovine tuberculosis.

“All my cows have names. I don’t see anyone saving Bluebell, ”he added. “It’s just emotional nonsense to people who are uninformed about the disease.”

Mr Latham said he was concerned about a report in the Telegraph that wildlife activist Dominic Dyer was planning to ask the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Symonds, to personally intervene in the case to save the life of the alpaca.

“This suggests that there is a clear path to abuse of power,” Mr Latham said. “What Carrie Symonds says should have no bearing on this matter.”

The Prime Minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, has joined the campaign to save Geronimo. He told the Sun newspaper that the alpaca should be tested again and that its life should be saved.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC radio: “Defra has passed his tests. The animal, Geronimo, has been found positive and according to policy, animals found positive must be slaughtered.

“If it is true that Geronimo has tested positive for tuberculosis, then I think the slaughter should take place.”

“False positives” statement

Ms Macdonald, who operates a farm in Wickar, south Gloucestershire, insists the test results were ‘false positives’ due to multiple priming of tuberculin – an inactivated strain of Mycobacterium bovis which is used in skin tests to detect bovine tuberculosis – for many years.

Write in the Mail on SundayDefra Secretary George Eustice said he investigated this claim but rejected the theory because the Enferplex test detects the bTB protein itself, not an immune response.

“Geronimo has tested positive twice with the Enferplex test. This is the test that was requested by the British Alpaca Society at the time. When it comes to positive test results, they are over 99% accurate with a ‘false positive’ only 0.34% of the time, ”Mr. Eustice wrote.

Animal rights protesters are scheduled to demonstrate in London on Monday afternoon (August 9) in a bid to save the animal.

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