Diclofenac use in livestock is shown to endanger fragile vulture populations

BRUSSELS (12 June, 2015) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has joined with other conservation groups  to urge the European Union to ban the use of the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac because of its harmful effects on vulture populations. 

On Thursday, WCS, Vulture Conservation Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare sent a letter to the environment ministers of all 28 European Union countries asking them to put pressure on the European Commission to enact a ban. The action comes ahead of a discussion in the EC Standing Committee on Veterinary Products on Monday 15th June.


Diclofenac use in livestock was linked to the near-extinction of vultures in Pakistan, India and Nepal in the 1990s. Residues of diclofenac remained in livestock carcasses which were then eaten by vultures. In 2006, the government of India enacted a ban on production, importation and sale of veterinary diclofenac products, followed soon after by Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Since then, vulture population declines in South Asia have slowed or reversed.


However, diclofenac is licensed for veterinary use in a small number of EU countries and was licensed for veterinary use in Spain in 2013. Its use in Spain is of special concern, as that country is home to approximately 95 percent of Europe’s vultures. A safe alternative to diclofenac exists and is widely available, limiting the adverse effects of a ban.


Janice Weatherley-Singh, WCS Director of European Policy, said, "The scientific community is united in warning of the dangers of diclofenac to vultures. We are asking the European Commission to enact a ban on veterinary use of diclofenac because ‘Action plans’ and further study are not enough. We need to stop the harmful use of this drug immediately. There should be widespread support for a ban since the existence of a safe alternative drug essentially eliminates any hardships that would be caused."


The Convention on Migratory Species, an important treaty to which both the EU itself as well as all EU Member States are parties, adopted guidelines in 2014 to prevent the risk of poisoning to migratory birds, in which it recommended banning the veterinary use of diclofenac as one of the most severe causes of poisoning worldwide. In its November 2014 meeting, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) working group on Wildlife Health expressed concern about Spain’s decision to allow the use of veterinary diclofenac and also recommended a ban.


In December, the European Medicines Agency, responding to a request by the European Commission, confirmed that diclofenac posed a threat to Europe’s vultures and recommended that measures be put in place to better protect the birds.



Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)


MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City,  visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia  Follow: @thewcs.