Vegan is defined as someone who's overall goal is to reduce harm done to animals and help the environment. For most people, being vegan means that you don't eat any animal products like chicken, turkey, ham, beef, and eggs. But this can also include all foods that are processed using any animal products such as milk, cheese, honey, gelatin, refined white sugar, and some wine. Some vegans avoid other products in everyday life that come from animals such as leather and wool. In addition, vegans typically won't use any beauty or hygiene products tested using animals. Vegans do this for three main reasons; personal health, sustainability of the earth, and animal welfare ethics. For Vegans this isn't just a diet, it's a lifestyle.
So the question is, are insects vegan? They're not really meat, or are they? Are insects animals?? Insects are classified as animals in the invertebrate group, meaning they have an exoskeleton or shell. They still eat, drink, poop, and breathe oxygen. Because of this, they are not technically vegan. But, should vegans eat insects? Yes! And there is a new group of vegans who do eat insects and call themselves Entovegans because they incorporate entomophagy into their diet. Insects are a great source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients missing from the vegan diet. They're more eco-friendly and environmentally efficient to grow and feed. AND as far as overall animal welfare ethics go, they can be proven a better alternative.
First, let's talk about the health benefits of including entomophagy into your diet. Insects are a great source of B12, iron, and protein which are all areas where the vegan diet doesn't usually meet the recommended amounts. Of course, there are supplements and vitamins vegans can take to reach appropriate levels but are they really healthy? Is that really a well-rounded diet? I'll leave that up to you to answer. Nonetheless, insects also can have up to twice the protein and fiber of beef or other traditional meat sources. This is a great alternative because the livestock industry isn't so eco-friendly .
The livestock industry is rather hard on the environment looking at the bigger picture. 70% of all agricultural land use is used for livestock. The other 30% is used for crops, mostly to feed those animals. 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to livestock which is actually larger than emissions from transportation. 70% of freshwater worldwide also goes to livestock. But if you turn to the farming of insects, most insects are kept in bins with full habitats that can be stacked on shelves, taking up less space and resources. They have very little greenhouse gas emissions and all waste can actually be repurposed.
Not to mention, crop farming also kills more animals than you realize. From the very beginning stages of farming produce, pesticides and chemicals are sprayed to kill pests and drive away other creatures. These chemicals do more harm, and many have been banned due to deformities and extinction of certain species. Also, when big machinery goes through the fields to cut the crops down, many small animals like mice, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, and other baby animals don't get out of the way in time. Because of this, there are actually levels of dirt, insects, hairs, and "pieces" that are allowed in food. The FDA has a book called "The Food Defect Action Levels" that goes over these levels and more in detail. Spices can have up to 1250 bits of insects per 10 grams. Peanut butter can have up to 30 bits of insect per 100 grams. Due to these allowed levels, everybody eats about a pound of insects every year. In short, you're already eating insects and didn't know it!
Veganism still accepts animal deaths more than we all may realize. Harsh chemicals and pesticides used for crops and exterminations aren't good for anyone and definitely not the animal kingdom. Insects and small creatures already die during farming and the processes thereof. Not to mention, traditional livestock are contributing to the unsafe amounts of greenhouse gases and take up a good majority of our precious resources. The farming of insects doesn't. Overall, eating insects is a better option than traditional meat sources when keeping in mind personal health, the environment, and overall animal welfare.
Check out these websites where we got our information to learn more!
van Huis, A., van Itterbeeck, J., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., & Vantomme, P. (2013). Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.