One of veganism’s competitors in the “save the world by changing your consumption habits” realm is entomophagy — eating insects. Proponents of bugs as food say that insects are a much more resource-efficient source of protein than larger animals, that they are nutrient dense and low in saturated fat, that they are arguably lower on the food chain than plants, and that you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a stink bug.
"Great," say vegans. "Except that bugs aren’t vegan. Didn’t think about that, did ya?"
For practical reasons, vegans often treat insects differently than “higher” animals. A bug is liable to be swatted or crushed if it dares cross the path of a committed animal lover. Donald Watson, the man who gave veganism its name, wouldn’t have excommunicated his ideological progeny for slapping mosquitoes or flicking away black widows from time to time. Even animal abolitionist Gary L. Francione probably wouldn’t affix the dreaded label of “speciesist” on a vegan who kills a fly for buzzing annoyingly. Still, according to the official definition of veganism, eating or exploiting bugs systematically is strictly (NV).
Just like meat, willfully eating insects technically falls under the category of “unnecessary killing.” Insects have “interests” and they might have sentience and suffer pain, so vegans are logically trapped into defending the lives of these voiceless, defenseless creepy crawlies.
Insects are to animal rights what Larry Flynt is to the First Amendment – you have to uphold their rights even if you don’t want to, or the whole thing falls apart.
Because the plight of insects isn’t much of an outreach issue, vegans rarely discuss bugs unless honey or silk comes up. But that could change if the entomophagy movement ever takes off here and deep-fried bug eating threatens to supplant veganism as the most ethical and compassionate way.
Vegans will not stand idly by as we chomp on nature’s tiniest, tastiest creatures. Based on some previous animal rights campaigns, I’ve come up with predictions for what a vegan-sponsored attack on entomophagy might look like.
As vegans get used to challenging insect eaters on their selfish valuing of taste bud satisfaction over another creature’s life, vegans will start to note oft-repeated defensive retorts from guilt-ridden entomophagists who are unable to logically justify their violent diets. Vegans will put all of these lame insect eater excuses onto a bingo card; Defensive Omnivore Bingo will become Defensive Entomophagist Bingo.
Will entomophagy recover from this onslaught? Or are ethical eaters doomed to veganism forever?