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August 28, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

Horseshoe crabs under siege for their blue blood

Horseshoe crabs under siege for their blue blood
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After surviving for over 450 million years, the existence of these living fossils, is now threatened by humans who capture them to extract their blue blood.

Every year the medical testing industry catches more than half a million horseshoe crabs in order to draw their blood for medical purposes.

"The crab's distinctive blue blood is used to detect dangerous gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) in injectable drugs such as insulin, implantable medical devices such as knee replacements, and hospital instruments such as scalpels and IVs. Components of this crab blood have a unique and invaluable talent for finding infection, and that has driven up an insatiable demand", reports Popular Mechanics.

The biomedical industry subjects these horseshoe crabs to the following tortuous ordeal. First they are capture from the ocean, then transported to a facility, strapped onto a table, have a needle inserted into a membrane that runs along the crab's heart (risking damaging the heart), then an estimated "third" of the crab's blood is extracted, and finally, the crabs are transported back to the ocean, with the hope that they survive. This is done to approximately 500,000 horseshoe crabs per year.

"No one really knows what happens to the crabs once they're slipped back into the sea. Do they survive? Are they ever the same?"

"There's a growing concern among scientists that the biomedical industry's bleeding of these crabs may be endangering a creature that's been around since dinosaur days."

In fact, scientists like Owings and Win Watson, who teaches animal neurobiology and physiology at the University of New Hampshire, are concerned about the welfare of the crabs. They're worried about the toll on the ancient creatures, from the amount of time the crabs spend out of the water in transit to the extreme temperatures they endure sitting on a hot boat deck or in a container in the back of a truck.

In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets global standards for species extinction, was concerned enough about the horseshoe crabs to begin monitoring the situation. The group determined last year that the American horseshoe crab is "vulnerable" to extinction—a higher level of danger compared to the last Red List assessment in 1996. "Vulnerable" is just one notch below "endangered," after all.

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