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The “Penka” case has proven the need for urgent reform in the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency


© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Despite the fact that the saga with Penka the cow got its positive ending and the animal was rescued, this turned out to be yet another scandal involving the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency and exposing them as non-effective supervisory authority. FOUR PAWS position is that with the current way of work of BFSA and its negative attitude towards animal welfare and non-governmental sector, scandals like the one with Penka will keep on haunting media and the general public.

FOUR PAWS reminds that this is yet another instance in which BFSA and its regional directorates show lack of interest with the implementation of animal welfare measures. Similar examples from the recent past are: the repetitive cases of unlawful cruelty to stray animals in municipal shelters across the country; the illegal breeding station for dogs in Varna which existed with the protection of the Regional Directorate of BFSA – Varna; the registration of several mink farms in violation of existing legislation; the four horses and two dogs that were rescued by activists but at the end culled by officers of the agency; the mass slaughter of farm animals due to only administrative violations. BFSA also take constant criticisms from abroad for failing to punish cruel treatment of animals during transportation.

Since the beginning of this year, BFSA was under attack because of their refusal to allow the transport of the two lion cubs Terez and Masoud to the FELIDA rescue center in the Netherlands, acting in favor of their ex colleague and current mayor of Razgrad. This scandal was followed by illegal culling of over 100 wild birds in Sofia zoo; the death of dozens of horses in the Osogovo Mountains and at last the case with Penka the cow.

According to Dr. Marina Ivanova, Country Director of FOUR PAWS for Bulgaria, BFSA has become an extremely clumsy administrative body, whose actions and decisions are not subject to any external auditing: “BFSA is responsible for a vast range of activities related to agriculture and stockbreeding including seeds and fodder, food quality, animal transport and farm conditions. In addition, they are also controlling the conditions in the shelters, pet breeding and pet trade and last but not least - the animal diseases. Our observations are that the BFSA is unable to execute all these activities effectively”, said Dr. Ivanova. “On the other hand, the structure and way of organisation of BFSA make any external control over its activity virtually impossible: the agency is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry but its executive director is appointed by the Prime Minister.

FOUR PAWS are also worried by the constant and purposeful neglect of animal welfare issues by BFSA. In the current structure of the agency there is no separate Directorate to deal with issues related to animal welfare. This activity is “inserted” into the directorate which monitors animal diseases and food control. An example of the attitude of BFSA to the implementation of animal welfare standards are the dozens of reports from international charities and European institutions on  violations during the transport of farm animals at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint between Bulgaria and Turkey as well as the agency's attitude towards the inaction of local authorities on curbing the number of abandoned pets and the population of stray dogs and cats.

“Recently the Executive Director of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency even sent a scandalous letter to the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions in which besides the numerous false statements regarding the agency's activities, he openly accused animal welfare charities for being responsible for the existence of stray dogs”, said Dr. Ivanova. “Such inappropriate behavior could have been avoided if BFSA had competent staff who clearly see the link between animal welfare and the quality of life in general and realize how useful the NGOs might be in addressing a range of social issues.”

FOUR PAWS see the only solution in restructuring of Bulgarian Food Safety Agency and the launching of a  separate Animal Welfare Directorate, as well as introduction of a working mechanism for external control over the Agency’s activities.

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