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3 Jun, 2018 00:37

Activists battle to prevent pregnant cow from being executed for ‘illegally’ crossing into EU

Activists battle to prevent pregnant cow from being executed for ‘illegally’ crossing into EU

Animal rights activists are urging Brussels officials not to slaughter a pregnant Bulgarian cow that may be put to death after visiting a pasture in neighboring Serbia and crossing back to the EU without the necessary paperwork.

The race is on to save Penka, a pregnant Bulgarian cow, who, reportedly chased by wolves, broke away from the herd to find herself crossing the European Union border into Serbia last month. The red cow was eventually found by her owner, Ivan Haralampiev, after an intensive two-week search, but now is awaiting execution for violating EU rules.

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“My sons were looking for her everywhere. I have notified the border authorities, the police and the mayors of the nearby villages. More than two weeks later, I was told that the cow was in Serbia,” Haralampiev told a local news outlet. “It turned out that one of the inhabitants of Bosilegrad [in Serbia] cared for her.”

Relieved to find the animal alive and well taken-care-of, the farmer rushed to get the cow back home. A Serbian vet checked her health and cleared the animal for release, but once they got to the Bulgarian border checkpoint, Kyustendil authorities notified the owner that they will likely have to kill the animal because of Penka’s entry from a country outside the EU without proper papers.

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Haralampiev was eventually allowed to cross the border, with the stipulation that within a few days the cow would be put to death. Authorities fear that the animal could have an infection, potentially endangering local herds. Under European Commission guidelines a “certification must accompany the animals en route to the EU and when they are presented for entry into the EU at an approved EU Border Inspection Post.”

“It is not for us to decide. We are only implementing rules that come from Brussels,” veterinary expert Lyubomir Lyubomirov told AFP.

“Bulgarian food safety agency assured [people] that the cow Penka is safe. She is back to Bulgaria going through quarantine procedure as the rules require,” the Bulgarian watchdog said on Friday.

While the Bulgarian food safety agency is waiting for a decision on the case, a petition has been launched to bring the case to Brussels for consideration. If the cow is eventually killed, the owner will not even be compensated, as Penka was initially financed through the State Agriculture Fund.

“We, the signatories of this petition, urge the EU to make an exception on compassionate grounds for Penka and not execute her,” a petition addressed to the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Court of Justice pleads. “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 group of British Conservatives in the European Parliament also called for the EU to show common sense and compassion and to commute Penka’s sentence. In an effort to stop “a travesty of justice,” its member, John Flask, wrote a letter to the European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, and to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

“Taking a short stroll should not be a capital offense,” he said, urging decision makers in Brussels to save the poor animal. A social media campaign was also launched under the #savepenka and #prayforpenka hashtags.

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