Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press release - 3 July 2017

Five European nature conservation organizations unite to call for a ban on veterinary diclofenac, a drug that kills vultures. 

Five European environmental organizations - SEO / BirdLife, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), Vulture Conservation Foundation, BirdLife Europe and WWF – are re-launching a campaign to ban veterinary diclofenac in Europe - and in particular in Spain, Italy and Portugal, the three European Union countries where most of the continent's vultures live. This anti-inflammatory drug, harmless to humans, can potentially kill thousands of necrophagous (feeding on corpses) birds and its use is unnecessary, since there are equally effective veterinary alternatives.

The new campaign, featuring a dedicated web site and a petition campaign calling for citizen support ( brings together all updated information on the approval, commercialization and risks posed by vet diclofenac in Europe as well as a clear appeal and message for civil society to mobilise and protect Europe’s vultures. Together with the communication tools, the leading organisations will coordinate specific policy and advocacy action at both national and EU level (from veterinary groups and farmer associations to municipalities, regional governments and the European Commission). A video will be launched later in the summer along with follow-up activities at the EU level later in the year.

Birds are exposed to the drug by feeding on the corpses of animals which have previously been treated. Its pernicious effect on vultures was documented on the Indian subcontinent, where the presence of diclofenac in only 1% of the carcasses of abandoned cows in the field led to the near extinction - by 99% - of five species of Vultures: the White-backed vulture, the Red-headed vulture, the Slender-billed vulture, the White-rumped vulture and the Indian vulture. Its use is now banned in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan, which has now slowed the decline of necrophagous populations.

Despite this catastrophe, the veterinary use of diclofenac is permitted both by the European Union and by the national governments of Spain and Italy. In Portugal, the authorities are assessing their authorization. Moreover, recently the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Sanitary Products (AEMPS), concluded that each year around 6,000 griffon vultures in the country could die as a result of diclofenac. That means an annual decline of more than 7%.

"Prohibiting the veterinary use of diclofenac is not only a matter of common sense but also a matter of law. The precautionary principle - which requires avoiding unnecessary risks - governs all environmental conservation regulations in Europe. Authorizing a drug with a potential deadly effect on birds that we must protect does not seem to be a measure consistent with this legal requirement," explains Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia.

Vultures are nature’s clean-up crew. They don’t kill, they eat the flesh of other dead animals, thus helping to reduce the spread of disease and eliminating the need for the treatment and incineration of thousands of tons of animal remains every year, saving us millions of euros in waste management and potential emissions of hundreds of thousands of tons of C02 per year.

Yet they are one of the most threatened bird groups on the planet, with 16 of its 23 species at serious risk of extinction. In this context, Spain has a key role in its conservation, as home to 95% of Europe's black and griffon vultures.
The fate and survival of vultures, such critical species, will depend on the engagement, mobilization and commitment of European citizens and political leadership – the campaign hopes to ensure that outcome. ENDS

For further information, please contact:
Iván Ramírez
Head of Conservation at Birdlife Europe & Central Asia
Mobile +34 646 477 962

Miguel López Rubio
Press officer at SEO/BirdLife
Tel. (+34) 914340910 / (+34) 655101884

Visit the campaign website 

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.


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.