There is a predicament for vegetarians and vegans about eating insects and insect based foods. In the US, Millennials are the most common group to take ethical and environmental reasons as to why they choose to be a vegan or vegetarian. Other groups usually choose it for health reasons and cost. While only a small group actually follow a strict vegan diet, another group: flexitarians, occasional meat eaters, also agree with vegans as to why they don’t.
Results in Western countries are finding that consumers are slowly coming around to the idea of eating insects, but mostly by hiding them in foods using products like cricket flour. There are already a number of products available including pasta, Bolognese sauce, chips, cookies and a number of protein bars.
A lot of vegans and vegetarians don’t get the proper nutrients such as B12, which has a key role in brain and nervous systems and the formation of red blood cells. Does this mean insects are the way to go? Approximately 40-80% of vegans may have a B12 deficiency as B12 comes mainly from meat, liver, eggs and milk. Insects, especially ones like crickets are high in nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals. They are also very sustainable, as they require less feed, land and water (less than 1% compared to beef) than meat based products and produce only a fraction of greenhouse gases. Two billion people around the world already eat insects.
It can be argued that while eating a plant based diet, animals are still in danger of being killed. Mice, birds, rabbits and other small creatures can all be harmed through land clearing and harvesting. There is also a lot of evidence to support that insects are non sentient (the capacity to feel or perceive). So incorporating insects into their vegan/vegetarian diets, it could actually result in fewer animals being harmed.
So which is the lesser of two evils? This is the dilemma. Should vegans and vegetarians opt for diets that produce less harm and are better for the environment or keep their convictions about eating only non sentient food while unintentionally harming small critters?