According to recent reports on August 4, 2010, the United Nations says the world would be better off if people raised and ate more insects, which take less resources to grow and are high in protein as well as other key nutrients.
The “yuck factor” notwithstanding, scientifically speaking, many bugs are perfectly safe to eat, and some people even find certain varieties tasty. In fact, they would be safer to eat than our fellow mammals, like cows for example, which can pass along nasty diseases such as mad cow disease or brucellosis to name just a few.
According to the UN report cited above, bug ranching also would make more efficient use of resources, compared to the amount of water and feeds used to grow beef, pound for pound. That would effectively mean that we could feed more people. It would even produce less pollution to raise bugs instead of traditional livestock.
Often times environmental vegetarians make similar claims about how the environment would be better protected if everyone would just forego meat and eat mainly vegetable diets. For example, Sir Paul McCartney has advocated in interviews with PETA, that becoming vegetarian might be the most effective way to combat global climate change.
Vegetarian lifestyles have reasonably large following all over the world, especially in India and Southeast Asia. Even Albuquerque, New Mexico ranks fairly high as a vegan friendly place. Yet, this lifestyle is still far from being adopted by the majority of people worldwide, and thus world environmental woes continue essentially unabated.
Whereas vegans seek to avoid all animal products, vegetarians often make “ovo-lacto” or egg and milk exceptions. If they added “insecto” to the list of options, perhaps they would be more successful.
Many people find a switch away from all animal products to be too radical psychologically, due to a lifetime of conditioning. Even if that could be overcome, many people worry that, unless carefully managed, such diets could result in nutritional deficiencies, especially in terms of proteins.
Adding insects to one’s diet, known technically as emtomophagy, would be a less radical step which would still achieve many of the same savings of resources. That would be especially true if insects were introduced as fillers into standard foods, for example, where one may not even perceive a difference in taste or texture. Indeed, humans often unwittingly consume a certain amount of insects which are accidentally mixed in with grains and other food staples because it would be too difficult to remove small bug parts.
Intentional consumption of insects would even address some of the ethical objects that many vegetarians have about eating animals, because, while insects certainly have some capacity to feel pain, and display some behaviors which might be associated with limited cognition, they show nowhere near the level of cognitive complexity found in more sophisticated animals like cows, pigs, chickens, and the like. While many of us might have qualms about butchering a pig or a cow, few of us have similar qualms about swatting a fly.
Ultimately, science can tell us that it is possible to farm insects and that using them would be more efficient than current domestic livestock, but the scientific facts alone are not enough to cause change to happen. Only people in possession of the facts can do that.