I met up with Sir John Randall MP earlier in the week for a chat about a range of issues – mostly about birds as Sir John is a keen birder. Yes, we covered Malta, Hen Harriers, the banning of driven grouse shooting and a range of other topics. We also talked about diclofenac use in Italy and Spain, and Sir John gave me a letter he had received from Rupert, I mean Lord, de Mauley.
Sir John, who is, he tells me, an avid reader of this blog (and he is not the only MP who is reading these words alongside you, Dear Reader) had raised the potentially disastrous consequences of allowing veterinary use of diclofenac in an adjournment debate on 10 April.
The letter spells out what diclofenac is and some details about its regulation. It makes the point that for a veterinary medicine to be authorised it must be assessed by a competent authority (in the UK that would be the Veterinary Medicines Directorate) in order to ensure efficacy and safety for the target animal, user, consumer and the environment.
I was interested to see that although there are no veterinary products containing diclofenac authorised for use in the UK we do test for the presence of this drug and have found no residues in the last three years. I wonder whether that means that there were in earlier years – despite no authorised uses – I think I shall ask.
The letter plays down the risk to vultures in my view by saying ‘Products containing diclofenac are a risk to vultures if there is any exposure of the birds to carcasses of animals which had been treated prior to death. In Europe there are laws which provide for the disposal of fallen stock which reduces the risk of exposure. Risk mitigation measures (instructions to users) could possibly be used to reduce exposure further by instructing users not to feed carcasses of animals treated with diclofenac to vultures.‘.
But the most worrying part of the letter is this: ‘It is our view, taking the above legal procedures into account, that the use of diclofenac as a veterinary medicine is properly regulated within the EU. Accordingly, we see no reason to put forward representations within the EU to question the licensing of diclofenac in other Member States.’.
Wrong, Rupert, wrong! This is an extremely complacent attitude to take to the unnecessary use (because alternative safe drugs are available) of a drug known to have killed tens of millions of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal over a matter of only around a decade. Tens of millions! Yes, the European situation is different but we know that threatened vultures in Europe are susceptible to diclofenac and that it takes very little diclofenac to kill a vulture – one meal will do it. Why take any such risk when the downside of banning it tiny? Why?
And I would have hoped that my government would care enough about nature conservation to make representations to the EU, the Spanish Government and the Italian Government on this matter. Instead, Rupert states that it is open to any stakeholder with concerns to raise them directly with the European Commission or with the authorities of the relevant Member States. So you and I have to do it because Rupert isn’t going to do a thing.
Come on Rupert – pull your finger out please!
Here is a place where you can make your views known – and Rupert can sign too.