Gloucestershire alpaca could become pivotal TB test case

An award-winning alpaca breeder is battling the Government to keep her animal alive after it tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB). She argues that the results were inaccurate.

With the backing of the British Alpaca Society, owner Helen MacDonald has threatened to take legal action if the department does not conduct a re-test.

However, in response, the department has said that it needs to keep “robust procedures in place”.

The deadlock means the Gloucestershire farm could become a pivotal test case in how the disease is tackled.

McDonald, who is also a registered vet nurse, owns a herd of around 75 alpacas in Wickwar, Gloucestershire. She told the BBC that Geronimo – who was imported from New Zealand – is worth £30,000 to her business.

‘False positive’

The six-year-old alpaca tested positive around a year ago but has been kept separate from the rest of the flock.

McDonald claims the test showed a “false positive” because he had been vaccinated several times since his arrival in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “They know that priming with tuberculin causes false positives and Geronimo has passed all other skin and blood tests.

“He has no symptoms of the disease. If he was infected he would have died since this fight started.”

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is expected to apply for a court order later this week to have him destroyed.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are very sympathetic to Geronimo and his owner’s situation – just as we are with everyone with animals affected by this terrible disease.

“However, bovine TB causes devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities and that is why we must have robust procedures in place to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.”

It’s understood that Geronimo has had two separate positive Enferplex tests.

The British Alpaca Society launched its voluntary TB surveillance scheme in 2014 in response to fears the species could be harbouring the disease.