by Henry Hill
Monday, 9
August 2021
Debate
07:00

Don’t save Geronimo!

The media obsession with an infected alpaca represents the worst of Britain
by Henry Hill
Geronimo

There are few headlines that so perfectly sum up what is worst about British politics and the media than this, from yesterday’s Mail on Sunday: ‘I beg you, Carrie, woman to woman… help save Geronimo’ – the alpaca set to be put down, in line with the law, after testing positive for bovine TB (bTB).

It captures it all: the media’s gleeful facilitation of this absurd circus; the perception that the Prime Minister is at the beck and call of others; even the mere fact that the Government has to have a view on this story at all.

It doesn’t stop there. The Sun breathlessly reports that Geronimo’s owner will “take a bullet for him” while denouncing the “jobsworths” implementing the United Kingdom’s disease control procedures.

Even the Times, where one might expect more sober reportage, felt it appropriate to inform its readers that the alpaca has “a cheeky personality” while amplifying its owner’s threat to film the culling. Even the typically serious-minded Matthew Parris promised to “never to be horrid about our prime minister again, if only he can save poor Geronimo.”

On one level, this could be taken as a sign that nature is healing. After years in which the news agenda has been dominated by major crises such as Brexit and the pandemic, we’re back to having a silly season in August. But even taking that into account, this is pretty abject stuff.

It’s been left to George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, to point out that there is a good reason that Britain has such a rigorous regime: bTB kills 500 cattle every week. The tests that discovered the diseases are also much more accurate than those used in New Zealand, upon which the owner wishes to rely instead.

Taking a soft stance on infected animals — even cute infected animals — has serious consequences. It means more livestock killed by disease on the long run, and all the attendant emotional distress and financial difficulty for farmers. It makes it harder to export British meat overseas, undermining the agricultural sector and our national prosperity.

‘Save Geronimo’ is a stance to warm the hearts of city-dwellers and hard-line animal rights activists such as Chris Packham, who in 2019 helped push through a ban on bird shooting that rendered farmers unable to control pests and protect lambs and other livestock. Eventually Michael Gove, Eustice’s predecessor, had to intervene and overturn it personally.

From Joanna Lumley downwards, the pro-alpaca coalition is distinguished by its remoteness from the practical realities of farming.

Mawkish sentimentality and a refusal to accept the need for difficult trade-offs is a big reason this country gets little done and less built. If the Government can’t bring itself to enforce our perfectly sensible disease-control policies, we can scarcely expect it to face down this same caucus when it returns to demand the scrapping of planning reforms or airport expansions.

In all these cases, the countryside is less a practical and sometimes brutal place than a twee totem, invoked as a bucolic ward against tough decisions and necessary change. There’s no denying bTB is a scourge that needs fighting — but the petting zoo/media complex is what truly ails British farming.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
10 months ago

Great article Henry.
The average person is overly cosseted and urbanised and hasn’t got a scooby doo about these issues. As you mention, they have a highly sentimental view of wildlife that comes from only being exposed to pets, and watching nature on tv/online.
Then there are the minority of types such as Chris Packham – who nobody could really accuse of not ‘knowing’ about wildlife, or being too urbanised, but who occupy some sort of fringe of pro-life animal activism. The first group of people (the majority) like him because he says the sort of things they like.

It makes it harder to export British meat overseas, undermining the agricultural sector and our national prosperity

Not only that, but the majority of people love cuddly cute animals yet still eat meat. This damage to our domestic practices then pushes up demand for meat from elsewhere where animal welfare and quality is further down the list of priorities.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

It’s not that they don’t “know” about wildlife, they know little else.

ralph bell
ralph bell
10 months ago

I don’t see these activists/protesters forming a human shield arounds other farm livestock such as friendly cows, it’s just these lifestyle lives stock owned by live-style farmers whole being middle class think they can change the rules to suit their sentimentalities.
This alpaca could cause the death and miserable disease of many other animals if left infected.

D Ward
D Ward
10 months ago

At last. A voice of reason.

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
10 months ago

This is what happens when successive governments infantiliise the population. When developing a sense of personal responsibility is no longer demanded of its citizens you get childlike responses.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
10 months ago

But it seems rather easy to infantalize the population because , functionally, they appear to be quite infantile ! – is that too harsh – maybe i am getting too pessimistic about my fellow humans -or hupersons , or hunonbinary creatures or @#$%^&*(

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
10 months ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Hi Chris, just caught your comment. I think having to strive for success makes better people. I think it develops a work ethic and empathy for others. A lot of people seem just to exist rather than lead fullfilling lives,both for themselves and others. They are directionless. If you take responsibility away from people you reduce ( to use an Americanism) their skin in the game (of life).

D Ward
D Ward
10 months ago

Socialism takes personal responsibility from people, because of its tenet of “big government”. Everything is the responsibility of the state. No one is responsible for their own health, education, housing – it’s all provided, no questions asked, nothing required in return. No wonder we are a mess.

Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
10 months ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Ps. Ckicken or egg.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago

I think to blame cultural change on government is a bit simplistic. The British have been partially and rather hypocritically sentimental about (some) animals since Victorian times at least. Probably something to do with being the earliest industrial nation where a majority of the population were very remote from food production.

Rats,anyone – pretty clever animals and similar to squirrels except without a fluffy tail?!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

Just quarantine Geronimo. Have we learned nothing?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

Why can’t he just self-isolate at home?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

And make all the cows wear masks. You know it is the right way to go.

If you remember North Korea had an interesting response to controlling covid at first – They basically made having covid illegal, and the penalty was death, and so they shot the carriers… but it did not quite work.