Conclusion of the 22nd Spanish Congress of Ornithology regarding the veterinarian use of diclofenac - SEO/BirdLife

Conclusion of the 22nd Spanish Congress of Ornithology regarding the veterinarian use of diclofenac

About 300 scientists and ornithologists that meet in Madrid between 6th and 8th December 2014 during the 22nd Spanish Congress of Ornithology


According to the big responsibility of the European Union regarding vulture conservation in the world, and specially Spain that holds about 90% of the vultures in the EU WIDGET_CONGRESO2014


In view of the scientific demonstration that veterinary use of diclofenac has almost caused the extinction of White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Indian vulture (G. indicus) and slender-billed vulture (G. tenuirostris), experiencing a decline from being among the commonest species to be catalogued as Critically endangered by IUCN (Green et al., 2004, J. Appl. Ecol. 41, 793–800).


Having in mind that, as scavengers, vultures are very adapted to consume substances that could not be processed by other carrion eating species and that, otherwise, could be a source of infection and disease for other animals. Therefore, they allow farmers to save thousands of million euros on sanitary measures (burial, incineration, disinfection) done for free by vultures.


Given that the same effect has been detected on steppe eagles (Aquila nepalensis), and that therefore it’s very likely that all Aquila eagle species were affected (Sharma et al., 2014, Bird Conservation International, 24: 282-286). Further considering that several species in the genus are globally threatened like Spanish imperial eagle (A. adalberti), eastern imperial eagle (A. heliaca), greater spotted eagle (A. clanga) or Gurney’s eagle (A.  gurneyi) and their survival is jeopardised by diclofenac


Buitre Leonado

Gyps fulvus, one species with thousands of individuals in Spain. ©SEO/BirdLife


Having into account that banning diclofenac would not have negative effects on livestock health or on farmers’ economy, because there are other anti-inflammatory drugs equally effective and at a similar price that have proven to be safe to vultures, like meloxicam (Pain et al., 2008, Bird Conserv. Int. 18, S30–S48). In fact, several countries have already banned diclofenac to treat farm animals (like India, Pakistan and Nepal) and use alternative drugs.


Considering that Directive 2009/147/CE obliges Member States to take the requisite measures to maintain the population of those species at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, as well as avoiding their threats.


Having regard to the recent resolution (UNEP/CMS/COP11/CRP31) at the 11th Conference of the parties of the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) stating the need to ban globally the veterinarian use of diclofenac.


Considering that, in addition to diclofenac, there are other veterinarian use drugs, like flunixin, that have scientifically proved that they cause the death of vultures (Zorrilla et al. 2014, Conserv. Biol. 10.1111/cobi.12417).


Allowing for the concern of the World’s scientific community regarding the authorisation of diclofenac in Spain and Italy exposed in the most prestigious scientific journals (Margalida et al., 2014, Science 10.1126/; Margalida et al. 2014, Conservation Biology).


Regarding the precautionary principle established in the article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that should prevail in the EU on environmental issues, as recognised in different sentences of the Court of Justice of the European Union and one communication from the European Commission.




To request the Executive Director of SEO/BirdLife to forward the Ministry of Health, the European Medicine Agency and the European Commission the following




About 300 scientists and ornithologists joined from 6th to 8th December in Madrid in the framework of the 22nd Spanish Congress of Ornithology, on the solid existing scientific base and relying on the precautionary principle prevailing in the EU on environmental issues consider necessary:


  1. To ban the veterinary use of diclofenac in Europe and especially in Spain, due to the great risk posed to scavenging bird populations, mainly vultures and eagles.
  2. To establish, expeditiously, a regulated procedure to allow evaluating the potential impact of veterinary use drugs on scavenging fauna, both those already licensed and those that could be approved.
  3. To withdraw temporally the authorisation to sell and use flunixin until there’s a clear assessment of its impact on scavenger fauna.




Madrid 8th December de 2014



(Original version, Spanish)





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