Open letter to Government regarding treatment of Geronimo

01 September 2021     British Alpaca Society

Dear Mr Cane, Mr De la Rua-Domenech and Ms Middlemiss


Official Complaint

The British Alpaca Society is the main body representing alpaca owners in the UK and is responsible for maintaining the records of all registered alpacas (40,000) & providing welfare & education to our 2,000 members.

We write to complain about the disgraceful & abhorrent conduct of APHA officers and vets who attended Helen McDonald’s premises to seize her alpaca Geronimo yesterday (31/8/21).

As those responsible for animal welfare APHA had a duty of care to Geronimo to ensure he was handled and euthanised with a minimum of distress, neither of which they achieved.

The lack of knowledge as to the correct way to handle alpacas was startling and totally inexcusable, dragging him kicking and screaming on to a trailer then tying him up with a poorly fitted cattle halter; he was screaming his distress call as he was brutally loaded which is evidence of how terrified he was – in front of the world’s media.

Alpacas are semi obligate nasal breathers and as such should have headcollars correctly sized & fitted so as not to obstruct their breathing, it is very evident from the footage that this didn’t happen. – Geronimo was seen gasping for air.

It is also well documented that alpacas sit down when being transported, yet Geronimo was tied up like a horse.

There is no excuse for these actions, the correct information is in the public domain, yet whoever led this repulsive exercise yesterday simply hadn’t bothered to find out the proper techniques. Whoever led yesterday’s operation must be formally suspended immediately for such gross misconduct and animal abuse.

If Geronimo arrived at his final destination still alive and not strangled or suffocated, how can we be sure he was humanely euthanised? If basic handling was so appalling how can anyone be sure he was euthanised correctly & in a calm & dignified matter?

Given APHA officers knew that they were going to be filmed and images shared globally, we beg the question how much worse would the handling have been had they not been filmed?

Their behaviour was disgusting, repulsive and cruel & in total disregard for Geronimo’s welfare and we would demand a full and formal public investigation to be initiated immediately.

The actions of DEFRA representatives seizing Geronimo was unacceptable for officers who are charged with animal welfare.

If this is the level of ‘professionalism’ shown by government officials in difficult circumstances, then something is very very wrong. The handling of Geronimo yesterday was abhorrent, brutal & is not deemed acceptable behaviour by such officers.

We await your urgent response by return.

Yours sincerely


Sue Loach

BAS Chair on Behalf of the BAS Board


Sent to:

Stephen Cane – Defra

Christine Middlemiss – Defra Chief Vet

Ricardo De la Rua-Domenech – APHA

Boris Johnson

Mr George Eustice




Members of the British Press