Europe and Central Asia
15 Dec 2015

The year BirdLife turned 'vulture vigilante'

Cinereous Vultures are one of the European vulture species under threat. Photo: Ramon Elosegui/SEO BirdLife
By Ivan Ramirez

2015 has been a difficult year for vultures: our science has proved that 75% of old-world (Europe and African) vultures such as the Bearded Vulture or the Egyptian Vulture are slipping toward extinction.

Yet veterinary diclofenac, the vulture-killing drug that caused the catastrophic 99% decline of several species of vultures in South Asia, is still legally sold in Italy and Spain, and the European Commission has systematically ignored our request for a full-ban of this product.

The EU Commission rejected in February the idea of banning vet diclofenac in the EU and simply asked its Member States to come out with “mitigation” measures. Those measures were presented in May, and some of them are simply appalling: Spain, for example, just added a general sentence in diclofenac vials indicating it should not be administered to animals that will be eaten by wild fauna. Spain has actually refused to change the prescription method or the food chain information and documentation, arguing that it would be too complex.

We have fought back on all fronts. The European vulture coalition (BirdLife International, the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare) has met with senior officers at EU level  over our disagreement with the mitigation measures given by most Member States. BirdLife has also worked together with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) to develop a multi-species action plan for vultures that should be applied globally.

Our members and supporters have played a fundamental role in 2015. We have continued to gather public support through our website and a new online petition (thanks MEP Catherine Bearder!); we continued raising the issue internationally in a shared editorial in the Huffington Post and launched a global vulture campaign in October. All these actions make us believe 2016 will be a better year for vultures, but we need to stay alert. Will you help us to #banvetdiclofenac?

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.