Charlie Beaty: Alpaca fight could prove defining for farming

Flippin’ heck – is that alpaca still alive? When it first appeared in my Facebook news feed (obviously the most reliable source going), I was horrified.

How on earth has an alpaca that tested positive for bovine TB four years ago managed to avoid the death sentence that nearly 40,000 cattle across England and Wales have been subjected to in the past 12 months alone? It seems utter madness.

See also: Charlie Beaty – no sense in solo sustainability

About the author

Charlie Beaty
Harper Adams University graduate Charlie has a keen interest in the livestock sector, being heavily involved in the beef and sheep enterprises at home, as well as the arable and contracting side of things. The 25-year-old is an active member of Warwickshire YFC and loves travelling the world.
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But despite testing positive for bovine TB on two occasions, the owner of Geronimo the alpaca has questioned the validity of the tests, claiming that they are returning false positive results.

But Defra says the Enferplex blood test has an accuracy rate of over 99%. In the four years since first being tested though, Geronimo has showed no signs of the disease.

More than 125,000 people have signed a petition to save Geronimo, with animal rights campaigners staging marches to Downing Street and guarding the alpaca day and night.

The campaign has attracted the attention of the prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, along with (no surprise here) wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham.

The alpaca’s fate has well and truly pulled on the heart strings of the British public.

So, imagine if we could transfer this emotion and sorrow and put it to good use for farming.

I’m outraged that Geronimo has been allowed to live this long following not one, but two, positive test results, but could this be a turning point in British agriculture’s fight against bovine TB?

All too many cattle farmers know the heartache of that positive result, and the desperation felt as the government seemingly does nothing of effect to control the spread of the disease.

Farmer Abi Reader has recently shared videos online of her battle with bovine TB, losing 10% of the herd back in May.

The video gave me a lump in my throat and tears rolling down my cheeks, with three heavily pregnant cows included in that 10%.

There are so many farmers now sharing the good, the bad and the ugly on social media channels, attracting huge audiences of consumers.

So, while we’re all rightly infuriated that an alpaca has at the time of writing evaded slaughter for a positive bovine TB test, let’s use the voices of our consumers to get the best for our industry.