Page last updated at 07:29 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Madrid plans vulture rescue law

By Danny Wood
BBC News, Madrid

Griffon vulture, file image
Saving the vultures may require a change to EU rules

Madrid's regional government is drafting legislation that aims to save Spain's starving vultures.

The new law will allow the bodies of certain dead animals to be left in the countryside to rot, to ensure the birds of prey have enough food.

Spain's vultures are starving because of regulations that aim to stop the spread of mad-cow disease.

Under a European Union law introduced in 2002, the countryside must be kept clear of dead livestock.

Environmentalists say this lack of rotting animal corpses has left vultures without an important source of food.

The birds are so famished that farmers say they have seen vultures attack and kill cows and pigs to satisfy their hunger.

To help the birds, the head of Madrid's regional government, Esperanza Aguirre, says she is modifying the rules to allow some animals that die of natural causes to be left in the countryside to rot.

The change in the legislation will restore a traditional source of vulture food.

Before 2002, farmers could legally dump the carcasses of cows and sheep in designated areas.

Spain's vultures could soon be feasting on plentiful numbers of rotting animals once more.

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