Letters: Save Horseshoe Crabs from Biomedical Use


An Oct. 22 commentary by Foster Jordan, senior corporate vice president of Charles River Laboratories in Charleston, said the company was committed to “doing what’s right” by horseshoe crabs.

We respectfully disagree.

The bleeding of horseshoe crabs for biomedical toxicity testing is big business, and in defending its use, the industry is trying to protect a market valued at more than $500 million.

These companies continue to disparage a modern synthetic testing alternative despite the fact that a major pharmaceutical company is already using it in four marketed products, including therapeutics for COVID-19.

Biomedical horseshoe crab harvest in the U.S. increased 25% in 2019 and total mortality increased 30%.

Research by S.C. Department of Natural Resources scientists has shown that bleeding crabs can lead to the death of 20% of females that are returned to the water.

What’s more, continued harvesting of horseshoe crabs has contributed to a 90% collapse of red knot populations and adversely affects other migratory birds and shorebirds that supplement their diets with horseshoe eggs.

If this exploitation continues, the red knot that once graced South Carolina shores faces near-certain extinction.

Advocates for a more humane approach to biomedical testing are not “out-of-state environmentalists,” as the commentary stated.

South Carolina-based entities including Audubon South Carolina, the Coastal Conservation League and the Coastal Expeditions Foundations have all spoken out on this issue.

Pressure on horseshoe crab populations has prevented their recovery from a dramatic crash in the 1990s.

In the U.S., they are now deemed vulnerable and likely to become endangered unless their circumstances improve.

The time for transitioning to an animal-free test is now.


Special project manager

South Carolina Wildlife Federation