Mere days ago, the future looked grim for Penka, the Bulgarian cow who had found herself at the centre of an international border-crossing furore.
But this weekend, thanks to the intervention of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, other human rights activists, and even anti-EU campaigners, pregnant Penka is safely at home, her future secured.
It all started when Penka wandered away from her herd near the Bulgarian village of Mazarachevo last month, walking out of the EU into neighbouring Serbia – a non-European Union nation.
EU authorities said Penka had violated guidelines under which animals entering the European Union must have papers verifying their health. For such violations, Penka would have to be put down.
Her plight prompted protests on social media, particularly in Britain where eurosceptic campaigners and publications held her up as a victim of Brussels bureaucracy.
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) June 8, 2018
“So many people saw our story and expressed their support,” owner Raina Georgieva told The Associated Press. “I believed that there would be mercy for our Penka.”
Animal rights campaigners signed petitions asking Bulgaria to save the five-year-old cow. The EU discussed the case in a daily briefing, and Sir Paul rallied his 3.95 million Twitter followers with a plea to save Penka.
All this time, the cow was confined to a quarantine box in the village, waiting for authorities to rule on her future.
Under pressure, the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency buckled, agreeing to review the case. Last week, it announced that lab tests had given Penka a clean bill of health.
“It is expected the animal will be allowed back to her former home in the village of Mazarachevo by the end of the week,” the agency said in a statement.
"I read the moos today oh boy!"
HUGE HUGE HUGE PENKA NEWS.
SHE WILL LIVE!!!!!!!!! SEE BELOW.
— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) June 11, 2018
Animal rights group Four Paws said Penka was hardly an isolated case. Dozens of stray animals cross in and out of the European Union every day.
“It will be really cruel to kill all those animals. I do hope that if there is a gap in European legislation, Penka’s case will help to solve this issue,” group spokesman Yavor Gechev said.
HAPPY ENDING! Penka 🐮, the Bulgarian cow, escapes death sentence after international outcry. Bulgaria agreed on Monday to spare the life of Penka after plans to kill her for crossing European Union borders without paperwork. 📸 Hristo Vladev | FOUR PAWS #penkathecow pic.twitter.com/UbmslUjrjR
— FOUR PAWS UK (@FourPawsUK) June 12, 2018