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Britons Are Trying To Save The Alpaca That Is On Death Row In England


In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's administration is facing outrage over a death sentence, the name of the condemned is Geronimo.

HELEN MACDONALD: He's a little, black alpaca, very cute, very cheeky, loves his hay. He's a little porker.


An alpaca. Helen Macdonald is Geronimo's owner. He's one of around 80 alpacas on her farm. She bought him in New Zealand in 2017, where he passed several tests for bovine tuberculosis, a fatal disease that alpacas can get, too.

KING: But once he got into the U.K., he failed two tests. And according to British law, that means he needs to be euthanized. Macdonald is arguing the results were false positives because Geronimo got a vaccine for the disease just before those tests.

MACDONALD: He's been in isolation. There's no public health risk. He's got his friends. He's very happy. And, you know, all we've - I've been asking for is a test applicable to the circumstances for alpacas in the U.K. so that we can clear his name.

ELLIOTT: Last week, Macdonald lost her final appeal to the high court in London after years of legal battles to save Geronimo.

KING: Britain's business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News that euthanizing animals with bovine tuberculosis is important to keep farms safe.


KWASI KWARTENG: It's obviously difficult because there's a lot of, you know, people invested emotionally in a story of an animal. But there's a policy.

ELLIOTT: Macdonald says she will not put up a fight if the authorities come to her farm for Geronimo.

MACDONALD: We're not going to break the law or anything. But we won't make it easy for them. And we're certainly not going to, you know, just hand him over. I don't have to do that.

ELLIOTT: But Geronimo's fans aren't deterred. Boris Johnson's own father told British media he hopes the animal can be saved.

KING: Also, 100,000 people have signed petitions. Others marched to the prime minister's residence this week in protest. But ultimately, the country's health authorities have the final word.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLIVE CARROLL'S "OREGON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.