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In a setback to Charles River Laboratories (CRL), a federal judge temporarily blocked its contractors from commercially harvesting horseshoe crabs — whose blood is used for reagents — from a national wildlife refuge because the federal government did not properly authorize the work.

The preliminary injunction was issued in a lawsuit filed by an environmental group that claimed the harvesting harms the crabs and threatens migratory birds that depend on crab eggs. Defenders of Wildlife contended the harvesting is illegal because contracted commercial fishermen do not have proper permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which did not study the effects of the harvesting.


The ruling is an outgrowth of an ongoing battle by environmental groups over the use of a decades-old endotoxin test that is derived from horseshoe crabs and is a widely used tool for detecting bacterial contamination in medicines and vaccines. Charles River is the largest supplier of these tests, known as LAL, and has argued against the use of newer synthetic tests that environmental groups have supported.

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