The World Daily
Veterinary drug confirmed as rare vulture’s cause of death

A cinereous vulture was confirmed to have been killed by the drug, which also threatens eagles. Photo:Alamy


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | APRIL 11th 2021


The death of a rare species of vulture in Spain led to an investigation that confirmed the bird’s passing was caused by a livestock drug diclofenac – a death which scientists and activists alike fear may only be the beginning of a larger problem.

Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug that’s recently been approved for use on livestock, was the cause of death for a vulture in Spain. The substance was approved for use all across Europe, Spain included, despite having seen bans in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan for this exact lethal effect it’s been known to have on vultures.

“This is a hugely worrying development,” said John Mallord from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “You can have several vultures feeding on a single cattle carcass, and if it is contaminated with the drug, you will kill them all just from a single feeding. This has probably been happening for some time, with many other vultures having died.”

The approvals occurred throughout Europe through strong arguments from pharmaceutical companies, farmers and drug regulators that due to the differing methods of carcass disposal in Europe, no harm would come to the vultures.

“That claim has now been shown to be wrong,” Mallord added, referring to the case in Spain. “A young cinereous vulture in the Boumort National Hunting Reserve in Spain has been confirmed to have died of diclofenac poisoning.”

The primary use of the drug is to help manage pain associated with different arthritis conditions – still commonly used to treat such pains among humans. There is no harm in the drug when used this way, with even India (who banned the use of the drug on livestock in 2006) occasionally allowing it to be prescribed for arthritis treatment.

“The vast majority of Europe’s vultures are found in Spain,” said Mallord.

He further added: “We were told there was no threat to them from diclofenac. Now we have found clear evidence that shows this is not the case. Given that there are perfectly good, safe alternatives to the drug that could be used on cattle, it is time that the veterinary use of diclofenac is banned in Europe as a matter of urgency.”


Research has revealed that the use of this drag can be lethal not only to vultures, but also to multiple species of eagles across the countries. Specifically those of the genus Aquila, such as the Golden eagle or the Spanish imperial eagle – of which there are only about 300 pairs remaining in the wilderness.

“The evidence found in Spain sadly confirms what we have been warning about for almost a decade,” said Iván Ramírez from the conservation group BirdLife International. “Vultures are dying from veterinary diclofenac poisoning and this could already be affecting population trends. It is absurd to keep insisting on licensing a drug that kills threatened species when there are plenty of other safe and cheap alternatives in Europe.”

Vultures are largely relied upon in countries such as India for carcass removal of cattle. Their decreasing numbers could mean an increase in scavenging crows, or even feral dogs – which carry the risk of disease. They’re considered necessary for the removal of carcasses in some rural places around Europe too, and to have their numbers decline too much would be to cull some of the greatest natural scavengers in the continents.


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021