Bulgaria spares the life of Penka the cow

Bulgaria on Monday decided to spare the life of the pregnant cow Penka (pictured) after medical analysis said the animal is in perfect health and she can soon return to her barn in Mazarachevo village.

Earlier, Bulgarian officials said EU rules have to be strictly followed and the cow has to be executed as it wandered into Serbia, a non-EU country, and returned after 15 days without proper paperwork on her health.

The death sentence sparked international outrage forcing the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency to intervene.

Last week, the agency ruled that laboratory tests could be carried out to ensure Penka was free from disease. On Saturday, it hinted that initial test results were encouraging. Since then, farmers in Bulgaria and animal lovers all over the world were waiting for the final test results.

On Saturday, the EU’s Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a petition which gathered 27,000 signatures including that of ex-Beatles singer Paul McCartney and English Member of the European Parliament John Flack. Earlier, Change.org launched a similar signature drive to save Penka.

Penka’s case pointed to a lack of compassion on the part of EU officials both for the cow and its owner Ivan Haralampiev who was distraught after being told that Bulgarian authorities wanted the animal to be shot.

Penka did not commit any crime. By mistake, on May 12, she wandered away from her herd into neighbouring Serbia escaping the attention of the border police.

A Serbian farmer found Penka near the town of Bosilegradby, identified her by EU-standard ear tag and returned her to Haralampiev. But Bulgarian customs officials stopped Penka from re-entering the country.

They wanted her to be medically examined. A vet found her in good health but officials said she could spread some disease and EU rules have to be strictly followed. The cow left EU and returned without proper papers. It has to be shot, they ruled.

Haralampiev produced a Serbian veterinary certificate proving Penka has no health issues. But the officials ignored that.

As per the rules, runaway animals will be allowed to re-enter an EU country from an non-EU country only if non-EU officials accompany them up to the border checkpoints with duly signed papers by an official vet of that country certifying that the animal is perfectly healthy.

Penka’s case was raised by a Brussels correspondent before Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. The journalist wanted to know if there was any way to save Penka.

Hogan advised the journalist to contact European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

Andriukaitis later tweeted that the journalist has a future in animal welfare and that it is “good for Penka”.

Penka has been finally saved. But there may be many more Penkas out there facing execution because of EU’s strange animal rules.