In Asia, many countries have already banned the use of diclofenac in veterinary medicine because vultures feeding on drug-treated farm animal carcasses have died.

The anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac used to treat farm animals caused the death of an eagle in Spain. Conservationists say the accident could only be the tip of the iceberg and that the drug could wipe out a large portion of vultures in Europe.

India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh previously banned the use of diclofenac in veterinary medicine after the death of vultures feeding on drug-treated farm animal carcasses. Experts say tens of millions of vultures may have died this way and that the numbers of some species have fallen by 99.9 percent in South Asia, the Guardian writes online.

However, diclofenac has also been licensed in Spain and other European countries, as farmers, pharmaceutical companies and regulators have argued that cattle carcasses are handled differently in Europe than in India, which means that vultures cannot access the carcasses of treated animals.

This statement has now been proven incorrect. In the case of the young eagle, it has been confirmed dead in the Bomort National Hunting Area in Spain due to diclofenac poisoning.

Said John Mallord, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a British bird protection organization.

According to the expert, many vultures can feed on a single carcass, and if the dead animal is treated with diclofenac, all birds will die from only one “meal”. “It was probably going on like this for a while, and it didn’t cause the death of an eagle,” Mallord noted.

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According to a recent study, diclofenac is dangerous not only to vultures, but also to vultures of the genus Aquila, including bald eagles and Iberian vultures, of which only 300 pairs live.

In South Asia, groups of long-beaked, narrow-beaked vultures and bengal vultures suffered the most from the introduction of diclofenac in the late twentieth century. The Bengal vulture population has decreased from the previously estimated millions in 2016 to nearly 10,000.

The dramatic decrease in the number of vultures has had dire environmental consequences. In India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the carcasses of dead livestock rots in the open air as vultures do not eat meat from the bones. According to health experts, the formed environmental gap has been filled with wild dogs, which increases the risk of contracting rabies. The crow population also increased, increasing the risk of transmission to birds and humans.

In India, diclofenac was banned in veterinary medicine in 2006, but its use in farm animals was allowed a few years ago in Spain and Italy.

The vast majority of European eagles live in Spain. Mallord said: Since there are effective and safe alternatives to this drug that can be used in livestock, it is time to ban the use of diclofenac in veterinary medicine in Europe with immediate effect.

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