A four-year-old cow that has won the hearts of residents in Tortosa, in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region, has become a cause-celebre after she was “sentenced to death” by agriculture authorities because she didn't have the right paperwork.
Taken away from her mother at just a few days old, she would have been sent to slaughter but instead was given as a gift by the farmer to a family in Tortosa, who reared her by hand.
Living alone in a field at the edge of the town over the last four years, she made friends with residents, who stopped by to feed her titbits and give her a stroke, or even a cuddle.
She proved particularly popular with children in the town with whom she was very gentle.
But last week, it emerged that her owners had not registered her with the agricultural authorities - a measure demanded under EU directives in order to trace all livestock through the food chain.
Catalan regional agriculture authorities claim they have no choice but to sacrifice the animal, even though she is not intended for meat but to live out her life as a family pet.
The owner was issued with an order to send her to the slaughterhouse and pay a steep fine for failure to meet conditions that are designed to prevent bovine health issues such as mad cow disease.
Animal rights group, Hogar ProVegan, took up her cause and launched a change.org petition calling for authorities not to kill Margarita and instead allow her to live out her days in an animal sanctuary.
“She's an orphaned baby cow who has never harmed anyone or anything, and she has a death sentence because the authorities apply the law as if she belonged to a livestock farm,” the group say in their petition.
The petition has already garnered more than 175,000 signatures ahead of the deadline for slaughter on Friday.
Margarita is a from a breed of bovine used in bullfighting, an activity banned in the region of Catalonia since January 1, 2012.
Will she get a reprieve?