Spain approves use of drug beneficial to mammals - that will kill any vulture that feeds on a carcass containing traces of it
Bureaucratic ignorance has allowed a drug that almost wiped out India's vultures to be sanctioned for use in Europe - raising fears that authorities will have to spend vast sums collecting and incinerating animal carcasses which the birds usually dispose of.
Despite their unappealing looks, vultures make a vital contribution to public health in southern Europe.
But Spain, which is home to about 100,000 vultures, has horrified conservationists and bird lovers by approving the use of diclophenac - a powerful anti-inflammatory drug used that is beneficial to mammals but will kill any vulture that feeds on a carcass containing traces of the drug.
Diclophenac can also be used legally in Italy, where it was first developed. The country also has a small population of wild vultures.
About 95 per cent of India's vultures disappeared after diclophenac was introduced in the mid-1990s, before eventually being banned in 2006. The result was a dangerous increase in rotting animal carcasses, which caused a rapid rise in the number of feral dogs, and the spread of rabies. One study put the resulting cost to Indian society at £20bn.
Spain, where vets can now legally use diclophenac, has about 90 per cent of all Europe's vultures, including 97 per cent of one species, the Black Vulture.