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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Can we care about horseshoe crabs?  Seminar

22 April 2021
Via Teams

Event details

Geography & Environmental Science Seminar

The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is likely not the first animal that people think of when they think about laboratory animals or systems of human wellbeing. Yet these enigmatic invertebrates are intricately entangled with the supply chains of modern health and medicine. Their blood is a critical component in current formulations of the Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL) test, the current regulatory standard for ensuring that vaccines, injectable medicines, and medical devices are free from contamination by endotoxin. Over 500,000 crabs are caught from the wild each year, bled, and then returned to the sea – with varying levels of mortality involved. The use of horseshoe crabs in endotoxin testing is a complex scientific and societal issue, situated at the interface of human, animal, and environmental health. It is a valuable case study to think through how people approach and engage with issues of animal welfare and ethics, as it doesn’t easily fit into existing ethical frameworks. This talk will explore some of the debates surrounding the use of horseshoe crabs in endotoxin testing, trying to understand how the way in which horseshoe crabs are spatially imagined and discursively positioned has important implications for ambitions towards cultivating a level of welfare for these animals, currently invisible and outside of regulations and imaginations of care.

Speaker Information

Dr Richard Gorman – Research Fellow, University of Sussex

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