LONDON (Reuters) – British vets have killed an eight-year-old alpaca, whose fate triggered an outcry against Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the government ordered the animal to be put down because of positive tests for bovine tuberculosis.

The order to kill the alpaca led to pleas from owner Helen Macdonald for Johnson and his wife Carrie to show mercy, prompting some celebrities to demand the prime minister swerve away from what they cast as a public relations disaster.

Geronimo’s owner, Helen Macdonald, and protesters had shown up at her farm to guard him from executioners. More than 140,000 people had signed a petition calling for the creature to be saved.

“The infected animal was moved from the premises and euthanised by staff from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) as a necessary measure to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis,” the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement.

Macdonald, a veterinary nurse, said the alpaca was negative when he was brought in from New Zealand and she had spent thousands of pounds on a failed court battle to save the animal.

A spokesman for the prime minister said it is highly distressing for someone to lose an animal.

“Our sympathies are with Ms Macdonald and others that are affected by this terrible disease,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)

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