Veterinary diclofenac has caused a 99% decline in the once formidable vulture population in India, leading several species there to the brink of extinction – the drug causes renal failure in vultures (and eagles). It was finally banned in the Indian subcontinent in 2006, only to surface in… Europe!
The VCF has been leading a campaign to ban it – it really does not make any sense that a veterinary drug linked to such a catastrophic biodiversity crisis is allowed to be marketed in Europe, when alternatives exist.
Using loopholes in the risk assessment procedures, FATRO, an Italian company, has managed to get the drug legally approved in Italy and Spain - the latter the most important country in Europe for vultures. The VCF and others have approached FATRO and asked for a voluntary withdrawal, promptly refused by the greedy Italian company.
The whole world is watching what European decision makers now do – the VCF has asked several governments and the EU to correct the wrongdoing and start a formal re-evaluation process to revert the legal authorizations (in a process called referral in Eurolanguage). So far no final decision has been taken, and the EU has asked one of its agencies (the European Medicines Agency).
This week the powerful IUCN has added its voice to the campaign. In a letter sent to EU Commissioners, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, its director-general, urges them “to put your weight behind an EU and global ban on the drug for veterinary uses”. The IUC repeated the argument that the VCF has been maintaining since the beginning – even though condition in Europe are different than in India, risk is not zero; “Although IUCN is conscious that veterinary regulations are relatively strict in Europe, these are not always failsafe”. So the IUCN asks for a ban of the drug, not only in Europe, but worldwide: “we urge the European Commission to call for a worldwide ban on the veterinary uses of diclofenac under guidance provided by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)”, says the letter.
This call is relevant because IUCN is also composed of many EU government agencies. Will EU politicians listen to a call from their own brethren?
You can read the full letter below.