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Scientists and conservationists appeal today to the Standing Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products: ”Ban the vulture and eagle killer drug, Diclofenac. We must avoid an ecological disaster”


15 Jun 2015


Health & Consumers
Science & Policymaking
Climate & Environment
Brussels 15 June, 2015 – Scientists and conservationists appeal today to the Standing Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products: ”We must avoid an ecological disaster: ban the vulture and eagle killer drug, Diclofenac.”.
Today, representatives of EU Member States will decide the future course of action on the drug Diclofenac at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products.
Veterinary Diclofenac is extremely toxic to vultures and eagles, killing them if they eat animals that have been treated with the drug. Even a microgram of Diclofenac is potent enough to kill several vultures.
Scientists are extremely worried about the veterinary use of the drug Diclofenac for livestock in Spain and Italy, two of the most important countries for vultures in Europe. Thousands of sheep and cow in Spain and Italy die in the mountains every year, and their carcasses are eaten by vultures. Similarly, vultures are at risk from the drug when feeding on livestock that die on farmland.
In Asia, the use of Diclofenac alone has been responsible for an ecological disaster. Vulture populations collapsed, causing an explosion of other scavengers, mainly stray dogs, which in turn led to a rabies epidemic. India and several other countries have now banned the drug.
Despite this catastrophic example, the European Commission has not started the procedure to remove the drug from the market, asking instead that Member States come up with an action plan. BirdLife’s experts and scientists strongly oppose this choice. Action plans will not work for many reasons such as:
1) Vultures usually find dead animals before farmers do;
2) Veterinarians do not have sufficient oversight of the application of drugs and we cannot leave it to farmers to remember which animals they should not release onto the fields;
3) Testing for the drug is very expensive.
According to Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation for Europe and Central Asia at BirdLife: “Last week we presented the European Red List of Birds: despite a number of conservation successes, vultures are still threatened. Millions of euros of European tax payers money are being invested with great results, but if veterinary Diclofenac reaches their wild populations, all this investment would have been in vain. Member States must stand up for vultures to avoid an ecological catastrophe”.
A complete ban of the drug is really the only measure that will keep vultures in the EU safe. This is widely endorsed by most experts, including the European Medicines Agency in their Scientific Opinion, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Convention on Migratory Species.


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