11. Insects – is it natural and ethical to eat them?

Is eating insects natural and ethical? We are looking at all types of foods that humans eat, and asking the question: would a wild human primate, equipped with only their hands, sticks and rocks be able to catch, kill and eat it. Also, is it ethical to eat it, since humans have that one capacity that animals don’t, and that is to make a choice based on values.

Many western people reading this would react in horror at the thought of eating an insect, yet will happily eat a plate of shrimps, or some lobster, creatures that are closely related to insects.

Insects are eaten world-wide:

  • Mopane worms in Southern Africa
  • Witchetty grubs in Australia
  • Wasps in Japan
  • Termites in Africa
  • Bamboo worms in Thailand
  • Centipedes in China
  • Tarantula in Cambodia
  • Crickets in Mexico
  • Locusts in Israel

Locusts were eaten in biblical times according to the Bible:

Matthew 3:4
John wore a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

Leviticus 11:21
Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth.

Leviticus 11:23
‘But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.

Many people believe that if humans would take to eating insects as their protein source that many hunger and environmental problems could be solved. It takes 100 pounds of feed and 25,000 gallons of water to produce 10 pounds of beef. The same amount of feed would produce over four times that amount in crickets. Comparing protein values, beef provides on average about 28g/100g and crickets, 13g/100g plus they are higher in iron and calcium and lower in fat.

Fun facts: there are over a million species of insect representing 80% of world species, and this works out at 8000 individual insects per square meter – that’s 1 per square cm. It also means that there are 1.4 billion insects per person and the insect population weighs 70 times more than the human population.


Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) catch, prepare and eat insects?

Certainly, most insects, pupae and grubs are easy enough to catch and kill and they can be eaten raw or cooked.

Watch this interesting video on insect eating:

So, in conclusion, insects are natural human primate food. Even gorillas eat them, and they are otherwise vegetarian, unlike chimpanzees and baboons which eat meat.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

Many insects that are eaten raw are eaten alive, and most often when they are cooked, they are alive at the time. Do insects feel pain? Do they suffer as animals suffer? This is difficult to answer as apparently what they feel is not totally comparable to what mammals feel.

But, as we have said before with animals and seafood, even if you manage to catch insects humanely, they will die when you cook and eat them, which then makes it unethical.

b) Has it had the best life possible?

I imagine that insects have a good life – brief as it may be. Of course, if they were to be farmed and not have a ‘normal’ life, then this would obviously affect their quality of life.

c) Is this food good for us?

Insects are high in protein. Caterpillars contain the same amount of protein as beef. Insects are also low in fat and have much more nutrition than beef in the form of calcium, iron, and vitamins. (1) Also, since they are wild, they are not loaded with antibiotics and GM food, as much commercially available meat is.

Final verdict in my opinion

Insects are natural food, since they are easily caught and easy to eat. They are nourishing and a good environmental alternative to eating animals.

However, it’s not ethical to eat insects unless they have been found dead due to natural causes.

So, insects are off the list.

What do you think?

Next post: dairy products


  1. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34172/title/Why-Insects-Should-Be-in-Your-Diet/

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