Victory for Penka the cow as she is spared from slaughter for crossing EU border

Penka the cow is currently in quarantine. Stock photo. (Yui Mok/PA)
Penka the cow is currently in quarantine. Stock photo. (Yui Mok/PA)

James Rothwell

Great news for eurosceptics: Bulgarian officials confirmed that Penka the cow will not be put down, following calls from across Europe - led by the Brexit bulletin - for the hapless bovine to be spared.

This newsletter, along with a petition I set up two weeks ago, had urged EU officials not to hand down a death sentence for Penka after she wandered off into neighbouring, non-EU Serbia.

Why the fuss? Penka risked suffering death by EU red tape for breaking the bloc’s rules, even though Serbian vets gave her a clean bill of health.

For many, Penka's plight at the hands of EU officialdom was a reminder of why Britain voted to quit the bloc.

And the petition truly struck a chord; it was signed by more than 30,000 people, including Beatles singer Paul McCartney.

MEP John Flack, who learned of Penka's plight from the Brexit bulletin, said he was delighted by the news, which he felt was a victory for common sense and compassion.

This was a story with many twists and turns. At one point our Brussels correspondent, James Crisp, was told by a senior source in Brussels that EU rule-citing jobsworths in Bulgaria were enthusiastic about killing Penka because it would have been cheaper than putting her through quarantine. Dastardly!

Many newspapers jumped on the Penka bandwagon, including the Daily Mail and the German tabloid Bild. But it was the Telegraph’s Brexit bulletin that led the way.

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James Crisp: How I broke news of Penka's fate

It fell to me to break the news to Brussels that, after all, Penka the cow would not face the executioner's stun-gun.

The capital of the European Union was still acquiver with the aftershock of Sir Paul McCartney's decision to come out in favour of the wandering cow that stole a continent's heart.

Of course there was some scoffing - this is Brussels after all - as well as a flurry of Beatles puns. The best of those were Hey Moo-de and Lady Moo-dona. Sitting in my usual spot in the European Commission press room, I received the news from Bulgaira's agricultural ministry.

Penka will not be euthanised, the press relase said. My hand shot up and I told Margaritis Schinas, the commission chief-spokesman my moo-ving message of home and asked him to cow-ment. Mr Schinas, a wily cove, obliged. You see, he said, "you can leave the European Union and then rejoin. It is ok".

There was laughter and surprise as the assembled press corps of Europe allowed themselves a moment moo-bilation at the news of Penka's rescue. It was only later that the true significance of Mr Schinas' comments became clear.

The process of joining the EU is notoriously difficult and presumably re-joining the bloc would be just as tricky. But was he really suggesting it would be worse than quarantine and death threats? Britain's Remoaners - consider yourself warned.

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