Steps forward the goal: a total ban on the veterinary use of Diclofenac in Europe

18.03.2014
Egyptian vulture, photo: Svetoslav Spasov

A number of national and international environmental organizations warn that the free veterinary use of the drug Diclofenac endangers seriously  the wildlife of Europe. The goal is this drug, that caused the destruction of 99% of the population of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal, to be officially banned, before this disaster in the wildlife of the Indian subcontinent befall us too.

You can prevent this - join the international petition to ban the veterinary use of Diclofenac in Europe!

At the end of 2013 it was alerted for the legal marketing of Diclofenac for veterinary use in Spain (where 8 out of 10 European vulture species live) and Italy. Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/BirdLife), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), BirdLife International and the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, promoted the coalition of unanimous organisations to fight together against this threat and for banning the veterinary use of Diclofenac in Europe.

  Here is an update on the situation in Europe:

•    It has submitted to the European Union a formal request for the EU to start a referral procedure for a withdrawal of the marketing authorization of diclofenac, under Article 35 of Directive 2001/82/EC, based on the risks for vulture populations in Europe;
 
•    This referral procedure can also be initiated by EU member states, and the VCF and BirdLife International have been working with national organisations in a number of countries so that they also formally ask their respective governments to push for this referral procedure – so far this request has been sent to the Greek, Finish, Bulgarian, Spanish, French, Belgian and German governments;
 
•    A number of national and international conservation organisations have issued their own press releases on diclofenac, following the public launch of the campaign by the VCF and Birdlife International on the 3rd of March;
 
•    The issue has received some attention in the European and world press. Here are some examples of newspaper articles published in mainstream or the specialist national and international media: The Guardian (UK), El País (Spain), Publico (Portugal), Vet Magazine (Germany), WildLife Extra;
 
•    In the meantime, a couple of petitions have also been initiated, one in English and one in Spanish;

•    Two scientific letters have also been submitted by vulture researchers and scientists to  the prestigious journals Conservation Biology (by Spanish researchers) and Science (by a number of VCF-affiliated scientists and other researchers);
 
•    Quite relevant, the company marketing the drug in Spain has put out an announcement with a recommendation that the vet diclofenac should not be administered to products that are susceptible to enter the vulture food chain. Considering the extensive character of many livestock explorations in Spain, and also the way that many vulture feeding stations work, this is impossible to control – but at least they recognise now the risk to vultures. This should have been adequately evaluated during the risk assessment!

The situation in Bulgaria with the use of Diclofenac in veterinary activities:

Currently there is no evidence that diclofenac is widely used in Bulgaria and it does not appear in the list of licensed veterinary medicines. Despite this there are officially designated permissible levels in food with animal origin and its use in animal medical practice in the country is not explicitly prohibited. It isn’t included in the “List of prohibited substances for horses participating in exhibitions and competitions” either, which means that under certain circumstances diclofenac could be used. All this makes the situation in Bulgaria complex and ambiguous.

What has been done until now:

• Within the LIFE + project "The Return of the Neophron" a wide range of activities for the protection of the Egyptian vulture and detailed study of all possible threats in Bulgaria are taking place. In this regard, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) made an official request to “Bulgarian Food Safety Agency” on the legal status and use of Diclofenac in Bulgaria;

• A press release to Bulgarian national and regional media was sent on 04.03.2014 (Examples of media articles concerning this issue: Dnevnik, Farmer, Nov Zhivot, Zona Burgas, Gramofona.com);

• On 07.03.2014 on behalf of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, Green Balkans, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna and Birds of Prey Protection Society, an official letter was sent to the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency, the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food with a proposal to ban Diclofenac in veterinary medical practice in the country.

Further updates are coming soon!

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