Should Vegans Eat Insects?
We have all witnessed the dramatic increase in veganism, predominantly in the West. The number of those now following a vegan or vegetarian diet accounts for more than 5% of the population. A surprising new trend is that some vegans eat insects.
Today’s young people, largely those in the age range 15-34, form the backbone of the veganism movement. There are three main reasons (that have both personal and global benefits) for following a vegan diet, and these are the following:
The three main reasons for eating insects are exactly the same as those stated above. So should vegans eat insects?
Many young people choose to go vegan for health purposes due to the rising pressures from social media. Who can blame them? Veganism eliminates unhealthy substances found in dairy and meat from the diet, plus you can meet almost all your nutritional needs from plant-based foods (if you do your research). However B12, iron and protein require extra attention on a vegan diet and reaching adequate levels can be tricky depending on your geographical location. As a vegan of two years with a fairly large social media reach, I know I am speaking for many vegans when I say this. However, there is an erroneous belief that this deficiency is only prevalent to vegans and vegetarians. Indeed 40% of the population is already deficient in this nutrient.
Supplements are of course able to replace this need, but is any diet truly balanced if it requires extra pills? This is where insects come in.
So as we can see above, in the case of crickets, not only do they have astounding levels of protein vs. fat, they are also a great source of omega-3 and fibre. Crickets also have five times the magnesium of beef, twice times the B12, more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach.
Adding insects to your diet is a natural, healthy and easy way to boost your nourishment levels. Their high nutrient content leaves a full and satisfied feeling after a just a few lean bites!
For the past century, the single most destructive force on the planet has been the staggering increase in our population’s intake of meat and dairy. The rearing of the 161 million cattle we kill each year has had severe effects on our population and the environment, including:
- The mass depletion of natural resources such as land and water.
- Unprecedented levels of world hunger as we are giving all our crops to animals and not fellow humans.
- The over-intensive use of huge areas of agricultural land to feed livestock, which has also caused the depletion of vital minerals and vitamins found in the soil, which explains why 40% of the population is B12 deficient.
- An 18% increase of our total greenhouse gas emissions due to waste gases from cattle, which is more than all transportation put together.
Going vegan does massively reduce your impact on the environment, but so does switching your meat to insects. The impact, compared to rearing cattle, is almost trivial:
With the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we need a real and fast solution to combat climate change and simultaneously resolve world protein deficiencies. Cattle is neither sustainable nor does it feed enough mouths, and at the same time the global population isn’t heading towards a plant-based diet any time soon enough (which could solve these issues).
Replacing meat and dairy with eating insects and sprinkling bugs onto a vegan diet (instead of a supplement) is clearly a viable solution two these two issues. There are enough insects to go around the entire population. However, for the vegans out there, there is still the lingering question of:
This argument prompts several questions:
Is eating an insect vegan?
Simply put, no. An insect is a living being and by definition, killing and eating a living being is not classified as vegan.
Do vegans kill insects indirectly?
Yes. Insects are unfortunately trapped and killed throughout all stages of the plant-food production industry. By eating shop-bought plants and grains, you are simultaneously killing and/or eating insects, organic or not. I cannot speak for home grown goods.
Are insects sentient?
There are conflicting views on this subject, and we don’t have a definitive answer. What we do know is that the behaviour of insects is very simple and that their lives are a lot shorter than the average mammal. They don’t have a brain or a central nervous system; they don’t even have lungs! They cannot feel pain in the same capacity as the millions of cattle in cages, as far as we are aware they have no capacity for emotional pain, and very little for physical pain. Indeed the method of killing an insect is far shorter and less torturous than when it comes to mammals.
Is an insect’s life less valuable than a mammal’s?
We cannot say for sure. However, what we do know is that cattle is causing mass environmental destruction as well as damage to the population’s health – just look at the rise of obesity in the West. Insects are extremely nutritious, they contribute very little to greenhouse gas emissions and their level of pain is much less than a mammals. Therefore it is logical to make the switch. Further to this, if vegans were to make the switch to replacing some plants with insects, they would actually lessen the amount of deaths of mammals. This article explains further.
Eating insects – is it efficient?
Absolutely – not a single part cannot be digested. As for cows, only 40% of each cow can be eaten, which is such a waste of its life. Even with eating plants, there is a larger than expected amount of waste:
Although we cannot pinpoint a percentage, eating insects would be far less wasteful than this amount. As well as this, the amount of space insects require is minute compared to the acres and acres occupied by mammals and plants.
Do vegans kill insects anyway?
When asked this question the response from vegans is often mixed. The only solid answer we have found came from Gary Yourofsky who spoke at length about how he allowed stinkbugs into his home in a YouTube video. I admire his dedication to the cause, but not all vegans follow this ethic. We can see from the harshly debated topic on bees and honey that many vegans are split over the ethics when it comes to insects. This blog post sums it up quite nicely.
However some vegans do admit to killing insects living in their house. If you are one of these people, consider this: what makes it right to kill mosquito over a cricket? If your answer is to do with the fact they annoyed you then your argument doesn’t fit the vegan logic; why does one life matter more than the other? If you can kill a mosquito, then killing a cricket or a silkworm or a black soldier fly shouldn’t ethically challenge your beliefs. Proceeding to eat that insect would then actually be respecting its life, as opposed to flushing it down the toilet.
Edible insects have the potential to compensate for what traidtional veganism is lacking. Many of the realities of veganism – nutritional defficiencies, lack of meaty flavours and textures – Can be partially solved by including edible insects. Entoveganism represents a new alternative that is probably more sustainable than veganism and more ethical too.
Should veganism just be about the label?
Veganism gets a bad reputation of being extremely strict – make one slip up and you are automatically demoted to ‘plant-based’ by purists.
Many of my friends and followers have contacted me with their concerns over this. With 84% of vegans and vegetarians turning back to eating meat, why is it necessary for the many vegans to be so harsh? Since when has thwarting other’s efforts to go vegan been a good thing? These vegans in question are forgetting that their main message is to reduce animal suffering and help the environment, which is exactly what eating insects promotes.
End Note: THE ‘YUCK’ FACTOR
We eat pigs that have been lying in their own faeces, cows that have been infected with open wounds, sausages made with goodness knows what and burgers with meat of questionable authenticity.
We eat shrimps: you know how it goes. Remove the head and tail, tear off the legs and gut out the questionable parts. What is it that makes emotionally unable to eat insects? Shrimps are actually anatomically very similar to crickets!
Twenty years ago sushi and sashimi was considered disgusting and unhealthy, but now… the rise of Japanese chains in the west speaks for itself.
Try eating a handful of insects! (Figure 3: The FT’s prediction of the value of the edible insect industry)
Check out also this interview with the founder of EntoVegan