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Birds of Prey

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL1051, tabled on 10 July 2014

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they will respond to the recent licensing of the drug diclofenac in two Member States of the European Union; and what assessment they have made of its toxicity to vultures.

Answered on

17 July 2014

Authorisation of a veterinary medicine involves an assessment of the benefits of a product against its risks. Potential risks include risks to the animal, to the user, the consumer and to the environment. The environmental risk is assessed to establish the extent of exposure. If the environmental exposure is not extensive, then no further assessment is required. Without exposure, there is no risk irrespective of the toxicity. If there is information in the public domain to indicate that despite low exposure there may be a potential risk, then the competent authority – the body that authorises veterinary medicines - can request a further assessment of the issues identified.

Products containing Diclofenac are a risk to vultures if there is any exposure of the birds to carcasses of animals containing residues of the veterinary medicine. The toxicity of Diclofenac to vultures is well documented. In Europe there are laws which provide for the disposal of fallen stock. The risk of exposure is therefore minimal as dead farmed animals are not left in the fields. Risk mitigation measures (instructions to the users) could be used to eliminate exposure by instructing users not to feed carcasses of animals treated with Diclofenac to vultures. This is something for the competent authorities of those Member States that have authorised the veterinary use of Diclofenac. The Government has no evidence that there is a serious risk to vultures posed by the authorisation of Diclofenac and therefore does not plan to trigger a referral procedure.