A story on BBC News caught my eye for two reasons. "The veterinary drug blamed for killing South Asia's vultures has been banned by the Indian government" said the headline. The drug was diclofenac, described as "a livestock painkiller".
First reason. I occasionally take diclofenac, trade name Voltarol, for a dodgy knee. So do lots of other people I know (not all for knees). So it was news to me to know that it was used on livestock, but why not? We're all cut from the same cloth after all.
Much more interesting, though, the news reminded me of my trip to India some years ago, which included a meeting with the chap running the Bombay Natural History Society. We talked for ages about all sorts of interesting things, among them the dearth of dead Parsis at the famed Towers of Silence. Turned out that the vultures had more or less abandoned the Towers because they didn't get a meal there often enough to make it worthwhile scanning the place for food. I was already familiar before with efforts to save dwindling populations of California Condors, which included feeding them on deliberately created cattle corpses. So we batted forth some ideas, which included baiting the Towers with, say, dead livestock, so that the vultures would regard it as a valuable feeding spot and be right there when needed for a Parsi funeral. The idea never flew, as it were, for lots of reasons, most of them irrational, which is precisely what one would expect of a religious organization.
Anyway, all that came flooding back as I read about the sorry South Asian vultures and their diclofenac-laced diet. And now I suppose I better revise my own disposal plans, especially if I've had an attack of the rheumatis in the days before I die. I wouldn't want the death of a carrion eater to be on my conscience.
And what will become of Parsis who need non-steroidal anti-inflammatories? Or will the government of India allow people to continue taking diclofenac?
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