Vulture-killing drug goes on sale in Europe

diclofenacEuropean vultures are under severe threat from indirect poisoning caused by a veterinary drug called Diclofenac. This particular poisoning issue is not one we would normally cover but the severity of this poisoning threat is so great that it can’t be ignored.

Diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory veterinary drug used to treat domestic livestock. In south-east Asia, Diclofenac is known to have caused the catastrophic population collapse of at least three vulture species in the last few decades (Oriental white-backed vulture, Long-billed vulture and Slender-billed vulture). These three species have been pushed to the very edge of extinction after being poisoned by eating livestock carcasses contaminated with this drug. (Diclofenac causes acute renal failure in vultures & most are dead within 48 hours of consuming a contaminated carcass).

On-going conservation efforts include a captive-breeding programme with the intention of reintroducing the vultures when it is safe to do so. In 2006, three years after scientists identified Diclofenac as the toxin responsible, the governments of India and Pakistan banned the manufacture of veterinary Diclofenac, while manufacturers in Nepal voluntarily withdrew the drug from the market. A vulture-safe alternative, Meloxicam, is widely available.

For further information about the Asian Vulture Crisis see here and here.

Incredibly then, news has emerged that two countries in Europe (Italy and Spain) have recently licensed the use of veterinary Diclofenac for livestock farming! The use of this drug poses a significant threat to populations of at least three European vulture species, particularly in Spain which holds 90% of the European griffon vulture population, 97% of the Eurasian black vulture population, and 85% of the Egyptian vulture population. Diclofenac is known to be toxic to all three species. A fourth species, the Bearded vulture (of which Spain holds 67% of the European population) is also potentially at risk – there is no direct evidence that Diclofenac is toxic to this species but given the drug’s toxicity to other Old World vulture species it would be foolish to assume it would be safe for Bearded vultures.

The threat is not limited to just Italy and Spain. It is known that the drug has also been exported to other countries including Turkey and Serbia and is becoming widely available.

It is vital that this drug is taken off the market with immediate effect. Not just to safeguard European vulture populations but also to send a clear message to other regions, particularly Africa, that this drug is unsafe. There is absolutely no reason for this veterinary drug to be licensed in Europe when safer alternatives are available. To license it with the full knowledge of its catastrophic effect on vultures is sheer lunacy.

So what is being done? Well, several high profile conservation organisations (including BirdLife International, RSPB, IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, Vulture Conservation Foundation) have sent a formal request to the EU to start what’s known as a referral procedure for a withdrawal of this drug in Europe. For more information see here.

What can you do? You can sign this petition to add your voice calling for a complete ban: please sign here.

If you want a detailed information briefing about the use of Diclofenac in Europe, including an overview of the current situation, legal aspects, potential impacts and required actions, please read this.

8 Responses to “Vulture-killing drug goes on sale in Europe”

  1. 2 Jimmy
    March 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    How long will it take for the EU to get its house in order on this? – I take it time is of an essence!!

  2. 3 Merlin
    March 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    African Vultures are already under threat from a poison called carbofuran, poachers are using this because Vultures give their positions away. wonder were they got the idea from

  3. 4 Bimbling
    March 12, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    The decline in vultures led to a big increase in disease and because of the loss of the “ecosystem services” provided by the birds the population of feral dogs increased rapidly to utilise the food supply which in turn led to a large increase in rabies at a cost much greater than the savings from treating cattle! It’s never simple is it?

  4. 5 nirofo
    March 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    The companies supplying these drugs to the farming industry have no moral scruples about the damage it’s doing to wildlife, not content with killing nearly all the Vultures in India now they are intent on finishing the job off in Europe.

    The Vultures in Europe have already suffered tremendous losses with huge kill totals to windfarms, not to mention the ruling from Brussels decreeing that all domestic animal carcases should be either incinerated or buried thereby reducing the amount of food available to them. Now to top it off they are permitting the wide use use of Diclofenac in many European countries knowing full well the damage it does.

  5. 6 Fay M
    March 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    In humans it is used as said, as an anti inflammatory, given by GP’s in tablet form, for as an instance gout. However diabetics prone to kidney illness are now being discouraged Diclofenac due to side affects. It would be lovely to hear from a kidney expert, on the use of this in mankind and if its use is being discouraged, then why let it loose on the farming community. Kidney experts please reply and educate at least me.

  6. 7 Johan L, Sweden
    July 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Cannot find link to “detailed information briefing”. Can you re-post, please? Thanks!

  7. 8 RJ. Clark
    July 27, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    In Britain we are not allowed to leave carcasses for others to eat, so it could be difficult for birds to eat any that’s been dosed by the aforesaid medicine, but in the wrong hands it could be a new weapon, used by dowsing some bait with it and killing whatever just like the vultures, could be an expensive drug compared to carborfuron. Very very bad about the vultures, man is just ruining nearly everything in nature one way or another.rjc

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