Science, Tech & Environment

EU's unintended victims: vultures

At sunrise, this rancher calls his sheep which are protected in a fence which protects against foxes or wild dogs, but he says it's useless against vultures. He says the giant birds that normally feed on animal carcasses are not attacking his sheep, and in the last month alone he lost a dozen animals. He says if a sheep doesn't react fast enough a whole pack of vultures will attack the animal and eat it alive, a terrible death. he says the problems started in 2005 when the EU made it illegal to leave dead animals in the field because health officials worried that if carcasses were infected with some mad cow variant, the disease might spread. So now ranchers must pay to have the carcasses trucked away. He says Europe took away the vultures' main food supply, and he says he doesn't blame the vultures and he can't shoot them because they're protected. Ecologists say there are only about 50,000 vultures left in Spain and their numbers are plummeting without dead livestock to eat. This researcher says the government should protect the vultures. He says vultures are indispensable for being at the end of the food chain and cleaning up others' waste. He says vultures actually contain some diseases and that makes this move by the EU ironic. He's worried the birds will die out before they can adapt. The government is trying to find a solution and has set up dozens of extra sites where safe carcasses are left for vultures, but the ranchers say this isn't enough. This man runs a ranchers union and says the attack on livestock are still continuing and it's endangering the ranchers' way of life. The union has formally petitioned the EU to change the rules.