Is Using Insects for Protein A Terrible Idea? Here’s What You Need to Know

3 Mins Read

Using insects as a source of protein has gained attention in recent years with enthusiasts presenting the idea as a sustainable and ethical alternative to traditional protein sources. However, the use of insects for protein is a problematic idea for several reasons, which we explore below.

Eating insects is cruel and inhumane

The methods used to process insects for protein are often cruel and inhumane. Insects are living creatures that feel pain and have the right to life, just like any other living creature.

In fact, the commonly used method of blanching involves boiling live insects in water, while other methods involve freezing, grinding, or roasting them alive. These methods ignore basic ethical considerations for animal welfare.

Insects feel pain

Research has shown that insects do feel pain and experience stress. Studies show that crickets respond to being handled by exhibiting increased levels of stress hormones, suggesting that they perceive human contact as a threat. There is also research demonstrating that insects, like other animals, are capable of learning and retaining information, indicating that they have a level of cognitive ability beyond what is commonly assumed.

Most people don’t want to consume insects

Most people are not willing to consume insects as a regular part of their diet. Despite the recent interest in using insects as a source of protein, the average person finds the idea of consuming insects unappealing. While people were generally open to the idea of eating insects once, the willingness to consume them decreases with increased frequency of consumption. Studies show that people were more likely to consume insects if they were processed and presented in a way that masked their insect-like appearance.

Mass insect consumption could have unintended global health consequences

Using insects for protein could also have negative impacts on human health. While insects are a source of protein, they are also a source of allergens and toxins. Some people may have severe allergic reactions to consuming insects, and the presence of toxins in insects could also pose a risk to human health. Additionally, the conditions in which insects are raised could lead to the spread of disease, posing further risks to human health.

One study found that insects raised in unsanitary conditions can harbor pathogens, including Salmonella and E. coli, that can cause foodborne illness in humans with the researchers concluding that strict measures must be taken to ensure the hygienic production and handling of insects intended for human consumption.

Mass insect production means mass feed requirements

The environmental benefits of using insects for protein may not be as significant as initially thought. While insects are touted as a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources due to their low carbon footprint and resource requirements, the environmental benefits of using insects for protein are largely dependent on the type of feed used to raise them. Insects raised on feed that competes with human food crops may actually have a higher environmental impact than traditional protein sources.

Insect farming can harm ecosystems and lead to biodiversity loss

Moreover, insects are often reared in cramped conditions with minimal welfare considerations, leading to a loss of biodiversity and harming ecosystems. Large-scale farming, where the insects are raised in industrial-scale facilities, has a higher risk of contracting and spreading diseases, which can have detrimental impacts on both human and animal populations.

It’s an ethical minefield

While some argue that insects are less sentient and have a lower level of consciousness compared to other animals, the ethics of their use for human consumption remains controversial. As a society, we need to consider the ethical implications of using living beings as a source of food and evaluate whether the potential benefits outweigh the costs.

While insects are often promoted as a sustainable future food solution, mass insect farming remains hugely problematic, we need to carefully consider the implications of their use before embracing them as a viable alternative protein option for our future diets. Cruel processing methods, human reluctance to consume them, potential negative impacts on human health, questionable environmental benefits, and ethical concerns are all reasons to pause and rethink the idea of insects as food.


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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