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Alpaca Angels' vow to deploy decoys in to thwart Defra death squad

‘I am Geronimo!’: ‘Alpaca Angels’ vow to deploy decoys in ‘Spartacus’ tactic to thwart Defra death squad – as the animal avoids execution for another week

  • The ‘Alpaca Angels’ pledged last night to unleash the disruptive tactics to save it
  • The have kept a watch over the animal since the High Court ruled he be put down
  • Geronimo is in isolation, but four similar-looking alpacas are in an adjacent field
  • Supporters say the Defra officials will need to look hard to find the right alpaca 

Supporters of Geronimo are planning to thwart his executioners by using decoy alpacas.

The ‘Alpaca Angels’ – who have kept a constant watch over the doomed animal since the High Court ruled that he be put down – pledged last night to unleash the disruptive tactics.

Geronimo is in isolation, but four similar-looking alpacas are in an adjacent field – with an open gate in between.

Supporters say the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials will need to look hard to find the right alpaca.

They also hinted the animals could take inspiration from the movie, Spartacus, with all five pretending to be Geronimo. 

The alpaca’s owner, Helen Macdonald, told ministers she can count on an ‘army willing to fight for his survival’

The ‘Alpaca Angels’ – who have kept a constant watch over the doomed animal since the High Court ruled that he be put down – pledged last night to unleash the disruptive tactics

Geronimo is in isolation, but four similar-looking alpacas are in an adjacent field – with an open gate in between

It came as the alpaca’s owner, Helen Macdonald, told ministers she can count on an ‘army willing to fight for his survival’ and revealed he was not set to be killed today.

‘We will form a ring of steel around Geronimo. It is now all-out war,’ the 50-year-old said from her farm in Wickwar, Gloucestershire, yesterday.

‘The outrage from people yesterday after Geronimo’s treatment was palpable and there is an army willing to fight for his survival.’

Geronimo’s four-year fight for clemency came after he twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in 2017.

The High Court decision this week means Defra will not be compelled to investigate whether it holds data that suggests bTB tests can be unreliable in alpacas.

Miss Macdonald said: ‘This a needless slaughter and the whole planet knows it.’ 

Geronimo’s four-year fight for clemency came after he twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in 2017. Pictured: Miss Macdonald with Geronimo

Supporters say the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials will need to look hard to find the right alpaca

The High Court decision this week means Defra will not be compelled to investigate whether it holds data that suggests bTB tests can be unreliable in alpacas

A Defra spokesman said: ‘We are sympathetic to Miss Macdonald’s situation – just as we are with everyone with animals affected by this terrible disease’

Last night the beast was given another 24-hour reprieve after vets did not arrive to put him down.

Miss Macdonald said she had been told by the Defra officials would not attempt to enforce the destruction warrant before 5pm on Friday.

She said: ‘Every day is a new day. There’s been masses of emails and everything has been going manic again.

‘I’ve been having this hanging over my head for a really long time and it is not over and we will keep going.

‘It’s exhausting and you have to look at what effect it is having on me and my family.

‘The supporters were really angry and upset last night and shocked by the whole story.

‘There are really safe solutions, and the Government are choosing the worst possible scenario in permanent destruction.

‘All farmers want a better deal. He and I represent a farming voice in this country. We have to keep going and hope they come to the table and improve things for everybody.’

Ms Macdonald said when Defra officials do attend her farm to euthanise Geronimo, she will not break the law.

‘I’ve got the world behind me and there are a few detractors who don’t understand the case and I would say to those people look at the facts before you comment,’ she said.

‘Defra have a choice. They can either work with us or they can try and kill him in front of the world.’

Ms Macdonald said when Defra officials do attend her farm to euthanise Geronimo, she will not break the law

At her farm, friends, family and supporters have joined her to protest against Geronimo’s impending fate

Last week, the Government insisted all the evidence on the animal’s condition had been ‘looked at very carefully’

At her farm, friends, family and supporters have joined her to protest against Geronimo’s impending fate.

As well as alpacas, badgers have been a victim of the fight against bovine TB, with mass culling employed to stop the spread since 2013, sparking a huge public backlash.

Last week, the Government insisted all the evidence on the animal’s condition had been ‘looked at very carefully’.

A Defra spokesman said: ‘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.

‘Bovine tuberculosis is one of the greatest animal health threats we face today and causes devastation and distress for farming families and rural communities across the country while costing the taxpayer around £100 million every year.

‘Therefore, while nobody wants to cull animals, we need to do everything we can tackle this disease to stop it spreading and to protect the livelihoods of those affected.’

Farmers come out in SUPPORT of Geronimo: Livestock owners say they have had ‘perfectly healthy’ animals killed by DEFRA because of inaccurate tests – including one who had vets turn up and kill 95 of his heifers

  • Tony Brunt, 71, barricaded himself into his farm near New Quay, Cardiganshire, in an attempt to save his heifer
  • He was hoping to fight it out in court but a team of 16 vets and police turned up ready to dispatch the animal 
  • He had decided to put up a fight after 94 of his shorthorn cattle were slaughtered 

Farmers have blasted Defra for ‘killing perfectly healthy animals’ suspected to have TB as the row over Geronimo the alpaca, who has been condemned to die by the government, carries on.   

Tony Brunt, 71, barricaded himself into his farm near New Quay, Cardiganshire, in May this year in a bid to save Mary, a three-year-old pregnant heifer, condemned to die by Government ministers.

He was hoping to fight it out in court but a team of 16 vets, officers from the Dyfed Powys Police Rural Crime Unit, agriculture officials and slaughtermen turned up at his remote West Wales farm along with a marksman armed with a high-powered rifle.

Mr Brunt said: ‘If they are prepared to go to those lengths what chance does the Alpaca stand? They are killing perfectly healthy animals based on inaccurate testing – I’m fed up with it.’

He decided to put up a fight after 94 of his shorthorn cattle were slaughtered over four years at his farm.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford had earlier this year had sparked a fierce backlash when he said the ‘single biggest reason’ for a rise in TB levels in parts of the country with low risk was farmers ‘buying infected cattle and bringing them into the area’.

Abi Reader, who manages a dairy farm in Glamorganshire, south Wales, told Farmers’ Weekly in July that she had lost 42 cows due to TB. She said: ‘There is a big wildlife problem, especially in west Wales. The Welsh government needs to be a little bit bolder and have a go at a badger population cull like they have done in England.

‘The testing is also not good enough. We are all suffering and that would include members of the government. They are not doing enough really.’ 

Tony Brunt, 71, barricaded himself into his farm near New Quay, Cardiganshire, in May this year in a bid to save Mary, a three-year-old pregnant heifer, condemned to die by Government ministers (pictured: Mr Brunt and Mary) 

He was hoping to fight it out in court but a team of 16 vets, officers from the Dyfed Powys Police Rural Crime Unit, agriculture officials and slaughtermen turned up at his remote West Wales farm along with a marksman armed with a high-powered rifle

Geronimo’s owner Helen McDonald is convinced her four-year-old alpaca is free of TB after being tested in 2017

Organic dairy farmers Dai, Sharon and Llŷr Miles, who are based in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, said their farm had gone down with TB for the first time in three years following a positive test from a first-calving heifer.

Llŷr said it was ‘not just cows with TB’, adding: There is nothing being done to address the problem in the wildlife reservoir.

‘Let’s not forget that countries such as France and Germany are able to maintain bovine TB incidence levels close to zero, and the Republic of Ireland has been able to halve TB incidents through proactive badger culling.’

Dairy farmer Mr Brunt told MailOnline he had parked a tractor to block off the farm entrance and hid Mary on the farm – not even telling his wife where she was to avoid her having to lie to the agriculture officials.

But at 7am on the morning of May 26 the couple were woken by the roar of vehicles coming into their farmyard.

Mr Brunt said: ‘I was still in my pyjamas, they hammered on the door and demanded I told them where Mary was. I said: ”Why would I do that?” If I told them I wouldn’t be doing my job as a farmer to look after her.

‘There were so many vehicles in my yard, I lost count. It was a big operation for just one cow – it was overkill and heavy-handed in my opinion.’

Mr Brunt, pictured with Mary, said: ‘If they are prepared to go to those lengths what chance does the Alpaca stand? They are killing perfectly healthy animals based on inaccurate testing – I’m fed up with it’

The team from the Animal and Plant Health Agency began searching the 250-acre Coybal Farm for Mary who was tagged with a tell-tale plastic identity clip on her ear.

Tony, who has coronary heart disease, said: ‘We had to stay in the farmhouse while they searched, I knew it wouldn’t be long before they found her.

‘She was shot by a marksman with a rifle, she was due to have her second calf in September.’

Mr Brunt’s wife Heather, 69, said it was ‘disgraceful and insensitive’ that Mary was killed in front of other cattle causing them great distress.

Geronimo the alpaca at Shepherds Close Farm in Wooton Under Edge, Gloucestershire

Mary, whose lineage goes back more than 50 years with the Brunt family, was loaded onto a trailer and taken away to the local knackers yard.

A post mortem examination on her carcass revealed Mary didn’t have bovine tuberculosis. Tony and Heather were not surprised, their beloved animal had three inconclusive TB skin tests and five negative blood tests for the disease.

Geronimo’s owner Helen McDonald is also convinced her four-year-old alpaca is free of TB after being tested in 2017.

Father-of-three Mr Brunt said: ‘I don’t hold out much hope for the lady’s alpaca but she has Chris Packham and public opinion on her side so who knows?

‘I hope the animal is saved but I don’t think that will happen if our experience is anything to go by.

‘The best thing she can do is keep filming it – they won’t turn up and kill the alpaca if there are cameras there.

‘We tried to do that to save Mary but they would not let us take photographs, in fact they wouldn’t let us anywhere near when they killed her.’

The couple once had 400 cattle at their farm overlooking the Irish Sea but they are down to 150 due to Government policy on bovine TB.

They get financial compensation but nothing has come through so far for Mary and the healthy calf that died with her.

The Brunts face losing more of their herd when Welsh Government vets return to the farm later this week to test remaining cattle.

Mr Brunt said: ‘We are being treated like dirt but we have to be realistic, and expect some of the cows to test positive for TB.

‘I’m not impartial in this. The Government doesn’t want livestock in Wales and they are taking this course. That’s my opinion, some people won’t agree.’ 

Bovine TB has become a hot-button issue in rural areas of the country, with farmers calling for more government action to tackle the disease in wildlife.

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