Is it really cricket, though?

Graeme M

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I made some plant-based rissoles the other day and added 20g of cricket powder to the recipe for added protein, B12, zinc and magnesium. That 20g probably represents about 40 crickets. A vegan said to me, but that's not vegan. I asked why not and the answer was, because an insect is an animal.

But, I countered, we don't know that insects are sentient, or at least, that the sentience they may have is complex enough to make it worth us worrying about.

My interlocutor argued that we ought not make assumptions about other animals. After all, she argued, we might best apply the precautionary principle in this regard. In any case, veganism doesn't need to go to into that sort of detail, the fact is that vegans do not eat other animals.

This struck me as a little odd. After all, growing crops requires the deaths of many insects so why would eating insects be a worse act? Sure, this is a topic done to death and I believe the problem is routinely claimed to represent an unavoidable harm. We cannot be perfect. But I wondered what one should do if it became clear that eating some crickets in one's diet would likely result in fewer insects harmed and killed.

What do you think?
 

KLS52

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Eating insects that are casualties of harvesting crops and intentionally sprinkling insect powder on your food are not the same.

As far as is possible and practicable…it is 100% possible and practicable to not intentionally sprinkle cricket dust on your food.
 
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Graeme M

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I know that some people believe that eating crickets isn't vegan, I am asking why that might be the case if it were to turn out to cause less harm to do so, rather than eating plants. The animal rights philosopher, Tom Regan, believed that when working out how to act in marginal cases, the best choice is always that which causes least harm. On that view, I should choose to eat crickets if it turns out that causes least harm. I am interested to hear why that would be wrong.
 

KLS52

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Least harm for who? Choosing crickets over another animal, like a chicken or cow? There are other non animal/cricket sources for protein, b12 etc. that would cause less harm to the crickets.
 
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shyvas

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Least harm for who? Choosing crickets over another animal, like a chicken or cow? There are other non animal/cricket sources for protein, b12 etc. that would cause less harm to the crickets.

Yes, crickets have a right to live a peaceful, long life.
 
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As a Buddhist, I believe it's all about intent. If you are harvesting plants to eat and don't intend to harm or kill any sentient beings in the process, that is not unethical. Just like if you are driving your car without the intention of killing the hundreds of bugs that end up splattered on your front bumper. If you walk outside and step on an insect and kill it, but you did not intend to do so, that is not unethical.
However, if you intend to harm or kill a living being and follow through on that intent, that is bad kharma. I extend these morals past where most Buddhists are comfortable, which is why I'm vegan. I don't eat any animal products (including crickets) because I know that those animals were harmed or killed with intention by someone and I don't want to benefit from someone else's misdeeds.
 
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Lou

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My 2¢

Besides what everyone else said....
But, I countered, we don't know that insects are sentient, or at least, that the sentience they may have is complex enough to make it worth us worrying about.

we don't know that they are not.

the other thing is that we are talking about a slippery slope. If eating crickets are vegan, can we eat honey?
How about oysters? Lobsters?

We could discuss and argue with zoologists or we could just fall back on the tried and true rule of thumb: Vegans don't eat animals.
 
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Veganite

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Isn't this reptile food? Why would a normal person want to eat bugs, unless desperate and starving? There are far too many plant-based protein sources, and more appetizing ones as well, I might add. I don't have to disguise or mask the flavour of my protein in my meals.

Besides, the whole protein myth was busted long ago. If protein was an issue, I would've died a long time ago, as I don't monitor my protein intake whatsoever. I just eat plants, and I do just fine. No crickets necessary!

As for crickets being vegan, you are 100% incorrect. They are not! No offense to the OP, but the argument is somewhat ridiculous. You are either a true vegan, and follow the philosophy of veganism or you don't. So eat what you want, but don't call yourself a cricket eating vegan. It's an oxymoron.

*
 

Lou

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Neither here not there but I saw a report on the efficiency of animals converting plants to protein. Crickets were pretty efficient IF they were fed high quality plant food. And if you are going to feed them high quality plant food - you might as well eat it yourself. :)
 
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Lou

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Insect farming is very cruel indeed. I sadly saw a programme where it's apparently an innovative thing in the food industry. The poor creatures are all cooped up in boxes and literally live on top of each other. I can only imagine the stress and pain that they endure.

oh my imagination just went down a rabbit's hole.

Crickets would be Paleo. Our caveman ancestors probably ate bugs. But they would have to be free range bugs. You might have to hunt them down yourself.
Or have your own bug farm. maybe in your backyard and feed them food waste. What would the neighbors think?
 
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Graeme M

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I don't think I called myself a "vegan". I asked why it would not be vegan to eat crickets rather than plants. I think some of the comments above missed the point. The point is this: if I eat plants to get my protein, and regardless of the myth-busting of protein or not I do need protein as do you, then insects are killed. Perhaps very many of them. No-one has firm estimates, but the numbers could be very high. They are killed intentionally and unintentionally. However, I would argue that vegan claims that unintentional deaths don't count morally are somewhat misguided.

Still, let us return to my argument. I need protein from my food. Good sources of protein are plants like chickpeas, soy or lentils. If I cause to die 15,000 crickets in a year by eating them to get protein (and other nutrients) and it turns out that rather more than 15,000 insects may be killed to grow enough chickpeas to obtain the same amount of protein as the crickets offer, why would I not choose the crickets?

Anyone claiming that commercial farming of crickets is cruel is making that up unless they have empirical evidence that is the case. We can say that intensively farmed chickens suffer, but it seems a long stretch to make that claim of crickets. Are they even sentient?

In the case of the crickets I am eating, they are fed food waste; that is, waste fruit and veg from supermarkets and restaurants. They could also be fed from foods deemed unsuitable to sell.

I am willing to ignore unlikely and irrelevant notions such as reincarnation or karma. Let's stick to science. And I reiterate that intent is probably not a useful metric. Intention is primarily a human matter; we care whether the death of a person was intended or it wasn't. But that is because it matters to the still living. It doesn't matter to the dead. With wild animals, it's doubtful they care about intent. What they do care about is getting hurt. And if it's death we worry at as vegans, then it seems that killing an animal whether or not you mean to is the same thing, in the sense that a death is a death. The real question is, if I choose to do something, what death toll or harm or suffering is associated with that and can I do better? In this case, it may cause fewer deaths to eat crickets than to eat plants. I am asking whether or not you think it would be in keeping with vegan ethics to choose to eat the crickets if that is least harm. Bear in mind my reference to Tom Regan earlier.

Someone asked the slippery slope question. I would suggest that either veganism is ignorant ideology or it is informed ethics. If the latter, then we choose to eat the food that results in least harm and suffering. If death is a harm (I do not think it is, by the way), then numbers of deaths count. In that case, we should eat whatever results in least harm. Even if that is a cricket. Or a cow. But let's stick to crickets because I know cows might be a step too far this early in our conversation. Alternatively, veganism is ignorant ideology in which case we don't care about numbers of deaths or suffering or whatever, we only know that we must not eat an animal.
 
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silva

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Here's an article about insect farming that addresses a few concerns:

Is insect farming sustainable?
One thing I'm surprised doesn't get addressed is just how much allergans insects produce. Cockroaches are a major asthma trigger, not because they're cockroaches, but like any shelled insect, it's their body parts and poop.
Want to know more about insect farming? Go to a larger pet store that breeds crickets and mealworms as feeders. It's quite disturbing, and quite nasty. Now take that picture and multiply it by the size it would take to breed to be profitable for human consumption.

And if you're at all concerned about the selective breeding of animals raised for food? Think about that in terms of larger insects. Or genetic manipulation for better nutrition produced from even cheaper feeds.

Here's my bottom line---beans are cheap, and plentiful!
Why not be more concerned with newer ways to grown plants that are not only more environmentally friendly, but grown indoors, without bothering any animal, and can located right in the communities they serve

So many seemingly innocuous ideas turn out to be real horrors.

No, eating insects is not vegan
 
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Graeme M

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I do live a vegan lifestyle, I just don't call myself a vegan. I endorse vegan ethics and make my own decision about what that means. Many of my everyday decisions are influenced by what you would call veganism. It's just that I don't think there really is a "thing" called veganism.

I agree that insects are not without problems for people consuming them, but these problems exist in greater or lesser degree for many foods, including plant-based foods.

The production of insects for food doesn't worry me unless someone comes up with clear evidence that it is actually a worry for the insects. I do not think they have sentience of a form that would lead to "suffering" as we tend to think of suffering. I don't think I am much bothered by genetic manipulation whether for plants or animals.

beans are cheap, and plentiful!
Why not be more concerned with newer ways to grown plants that are not only more environmentally friendly, but grown indoors, without bothering any animal, and can located right in the communities they serve

Please reread what I wrote. Beans cost insect lives, very many of them. Estimates for insect densities per hectare vary with the highest estimate around one billion. It is true that crop lands tend to have lower densities than wild lands, however over the course of year's production cumulative totals may be even greater. Pesticide treatments may occur several times per year. If insect deaths in a crop of chickpeas exceeds one million per hectare in a year, then the number of deaths will exceed the number of crickets eaten in my example. If there are one billion insects present in that crop over the course of a year and only 1/1000th are killed by production processes, then we are about even. Any more than that and it is less harmful to eat the crickets.

By the way, one presumes that pesticides kill most of the insects present, or at least most of the pest insects. If not, farmers would not be inclined to bother.

I am not concerned with potential future activities that reduce harms. I am concerned with what my immediate choices mean.
 

silva

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There is a big difference between tribal people living off the land and people who get there food from stores.
Farmed insects would be fed a diet of grains, and quickly become CAFO farming.
Just as people keeping cows and goats for milk, chickens for eggs, sheep to be shorn for winter clothing started innocently enough, so would this 'environmentally good' practice of eating bugs.
If you want to poke a stick in a termite hole on a hiking trip to get you through the day, so be it, but to promote insect eating as sustainable? I think not
 
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