The case of Penka the cow case got unprecedented attention by the world’s media, but it was mostly used by British tabloids, which turned it into a symbol of the blatant bureaucracy in Brussels. A Bulgarian columnist wrote that Penka the cow had outshined the official highlights of the country’s EU Presidency. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
Krassen Nikolov is a journalist specialised in judiciary affairs. He works for Mediapool and will be a regular contributor for BulgarianPresidency.eu for the six months of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
As things go by, the situation is getting dramatic. Penka the cow must be killed unless the chairman of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency decides otherwise. This is the last absurd touch in the history of the animal that went to Serbia for two weeks and then was returned to its owner.
In early May a cow by the name of Penka crossed the border between Bulgaria and Serbia in front of the Bulgarian border police which was helpless to prevent the illegal escape, which was captured by the cameras at the border.
The Bulgarian Border Police service explained that its officers first managed to push back the cow and it did not cross the border. Minutes later however, she galloped her way across the border and the uniformed officers had no choice but to back away. This is how Penka left the country illegally.
The cow reached the nearest town of Bosilegrad, where mainly Serbian citizens of Bulgarian origin live. Two weeks later, Penka’s distraught owner, farmer Ivan Haralampyev received a call from the Serbian police to go and collect the animal that was recognized by its EU-standard ear tag.
Ivan did just that, but when he returned to Bulgaria, border officers asked him for standard documents that the animal was in good health. He, of course, had no such documents. This is how Penka came into the hands of the Bulgarian authorities.
The case was first reported by the Bulgarian Animal Rights Protection Organization – “Four Paws”. It was then taken over by the international press, in articles expressing outrage from the Brussels bureaucracy.
The case was also quickly taken up by the British Conservatives. MEP John Flack wrote to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and to the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani to defend Penka. Journalist James Rothwell from the Daily Telegraph, who supports Brexit, organised an online petiton. At the time of publishing this article, “Save Penka the cow” has gathered the support of over 21,000 people.
“We, the signatories of this petition, urge the EU to make an exception on compassionate grounds for Penka and not execute her. We believe that Penka’s case reflects a lack of compassion on the part of EU officialdom for everyday people, such as Penka’s owner, who is absolutely distraught”, the petiton reads.
Farmer Ivan Haralampiev showed resolve to save Penka. He told the Bulgarian media that Penka was pregnant to cause people’s sympathy. It was a little later that this was debunked as fake news, but no one blamed Ivan, who was only trying to save his cow. Now the fate of Penka has to be decided by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency. However, the Agency is delaying the final decision, although the case is clear and the cow should be killed, according to law.
“This is an enormous violation of the European and, accordingly, our legislation and the animal is subject to seizure for the benefit of the state and, respectively, euthanasia. The cow will be killed and buried”, said Dr Alexandra Miteva from the agency’s Animal Healthcare directorate.
Immediately thereafter, the same institution announced that the cow might not be killed if the head of agency Damyan Iliev decided so. This is how Penka the cow’s case confirmed that everything in Bulgaria is possible.
Her owner Ivan also doesn’t give up and accuses the agency of having some personal bias against Penka and himself. The man asked for a review of the euthanasia decision and new blood tests of the cow. He blames the border police for not stopping the animal and preventing it from becoming, in his words, an illegal tourist in Serbia.
The Bulgarian Food Safety Agency says the final decision will be taken within a few days. Interestingly, Penka has also been able to activate Bulgaria’s international contacts. By the end of the week, agency chief Iliev will hold extraordinary meetings with his Macedonian and Serbian colleagues “on the occasion of the case of the passage of unaccompanied animals across the border”.
The case of Penka has also prompted the outrage of MEP Emil Radev (EPP-GERB), who called “barbarism” the actions of the Bulgarian Agency for Food Safety against animals.
“We cannot – by killing everything that lives – seek solution to the problems. In this way, we can only harm Bulgaria’s image”, Radev told the Bulgarian National Television. The agency is controlled by the GERB government.
Columnist Svetoslav Terziev wrote in Sega daily that Penka the cow was now the most famous Bulgarian. He argued that Penka found more sympathy in Europe than the Bulgarian Prime minister, who sought, without success, Schengen membership for the country and accession to ERM II – the Eurozone waiting room.