No crab blood please, we’re European


No crab blood please, we’re European

The report on the US Pharmacopeia’s decision to continue relying on the blood of wild-caught horseshoe crabs for safety testing pharmaceuticals (Crab blood to remain big pharma's standard as industry group rejects substitute) will come as a disappointment to many of those concerned about animal welfare and environmental sustainability. However, there is more hope to be found than The Guardian’s article might initially suggest. 

In the European Pharmacopoeia, the animal-free replacement to crab-blood derived testing achieved regulatory approval at the end of 2019, to come into effect January 2021. This will, at least within Europe, put the synthetic test on an equal footing with crab-blood tests. There is still a long road for the alternative to gain industry confidence and uptake, but being a ‘compendial test’ in Europe represents a significant milestone in the use of non-animal methods. The European decision is a positive result for a species afforded little protection or welfare considerations, despite – as social media reactions to articles like this demonstrate – a public desire to see more care expressed in the biomedical use of animals. Importantly, this social expectation of care is not just for those animals we find deeply familiar or appealing, but also for enigmatic invertebrates like horseshoe crabs. 

In a time when ‘following the science’ is a regular call, the curious case of horseshoe crab blood is a reminder that though we live in a globalised world, the regulation and practice of science (and animal use) is shaped by regional cultures, values, and politics. 

You can read more about how the Animal Research Nexus is exploring the controversies surrounding the biomedical use of horseshoe crabs here.

Being a ‘compendial test’ in Europe represents a significant milestone in the use of non-animal methods