PRESSURE is mounting on Europe to ban a drug that is lethal to vultures.

Veterinary drug diclofenac – a pain-killing anti-inflammatory medicine used on livestock – causes rapid, lethal kidney failure to vultures eating contaminated carrion.

The drug decimated vulture populations across Asia in the 1990s and early 2000s.

However, a loophole in Europe allows it to be legally used in Spain, where 95% of Europe’s estimated 55,000 vultures live.

Research from the Peregrine Fund concluded that Spain’s vulture population could be wiped out even if less than 1% of the carcasses eaten are contaminated.

According to the European Medicines Agency, withdrawal of the drug from is the only measure that would completely remove the risk to the birds’ welfare.

A coalition of organisations to protect vultures said: “Decades and millions of euros have been spent protecting Europe’s vultures. We can’t now let all of them disappear.”