Sir John added: “There is a real problem of ignorance. There is a false assumption that what is good for mammals is good for everything else, or at least not harmful. People assume that vultures belong in the Serengeti with the lions, but they are common in Spain and France; a wild vulture has even been seen in Holland.

There was a Black Vulture spotted in Wales, but they think it escaped from somewhere. Vultures have always been disregarded because of the way they look, but actually they do a very, very good job.”

José Tavares, director of the Swiss-based Vulture Conservation Foundation, added: “Vultures fulfill an incredibly important role. They clean the countryside, they provide an ecological service that is free and unique. In a few depressed areas of Europe, they bring tourist income. If diclophenac becomes widespread in Europe, carcasses would have to be collected and incinerated at huge cost.“

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