Do We Have a Moral Duty to Eat Insects?
Recently, it has become apparent that the world will suffer if we do not find more sustainable ways of living. Many people have suggested the consumption of insects, otherwise known as entomophagy. The thought of eating insects is not one that we welcome very openly to our modern lifestyles, but for many people it is not odd and over 1,900 species of insect form the diets of over two billion people.
There are many valid arguments as to why we should eat insects; for example, it would provide a more sustainable lifestyle. Statistically, insects require less land, less water (roughly 1000 times less water than would be used for the same weight of cow meat), and less feed (some scientists say that where 10kg of feed will generate 1-3kg of meat, it will generate a massive 9kg of edible insects).
Eating insects is also acceptable amongst many religions; Moses said, “These yet may eat: the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind” in Leviticus, whilst in Islam, “locusts are Allah’s troops, you may eat them.” Cicadas and stag beetle larvae were served in Ancient Greek and Roman feasts and people have estimated that 80% of nations in the world have insects included in their diet. Surprisingly however, many people are in fact unconsciously eating insects. For example, if you have eaten strawberry yoghurts, ice creams, jams and juices then you have almost definitely eaten cochineal beetle since they have been used as a crushed dye for thousands of years. Some of the tastiest insects are said to be giant water beetles which have a flavour similar to scallops when de-shelled then fried or roasted. Our RS teacher informed us that we do have a moral duty to eat insects because “it is clear that our planet cannot sustain our current egocentric view of food,” whilst she continued to say that we “eat what we fancy without asking questions about its source and sustainability.”
On the other hand however, the thought of eating insects makes many people squeamish and there is evidence that insect farming may cause more suffering than livestock farming. One reason that many people eat insects is because they picture one insect and think of its insignificance but forget that all the insects that go into their meals add up to a much larger quantity. In addition, insects suffer more than large animals through no fault of our own. This is because most insect offspring die shortly after birth which means that no matter how luxurious the conditions they are raised in, there would still be large amounts of suffering.
Shellac is a resin derived from insects; it can be used on pills, candy and fruits in small amounts whilst most hard shiny candies use shellac coatings. To produce just 1kg of shellac, between 50,000 and 300,000 bugs are used. Additionally, many vegans are forced to avoid honey and silk. This is because they require insect farming, even though the insects aren’t consumed. When viruses infect insect-rearing facilities they spread rapidly and huge quantities of insects suffer, demonstrating how dangerous the consumption of insects could be, yet another reason to suggest why we should not eat insects. The concept of eating insects is not one that is very welcome to most people and our RS teacher says, “I think that I won’t have a moral duty to eat insects, but I do think that I will have a moral duty not to eat meat very often if at all.”
In summary, the thought of eating insects may not be a welcome one, but their intake is necessary for the future of our planet. Their production uses far fewer resources than the manufacture of many other foods, and incorporating them into our diet could potentially be vital in maintaining the sustainability of our planet.
By Olivia and Madeleine