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"Don't farm bugs": Moral rights for insects? (protein production & factory design)

C C Offline

INTRO: The future of animal farming is taking shape in a small city in central Illinois. A startup called InnovaFeed is building a production site that will house more farmed animals than any other location in the history of the world. But the animals in question are not cows, pigs or chickens – they are black soldier fly larvae.

When the facility is fully operational, InnovaFeed hopes to produce 60,000 metric tonnes of insect protein from the fly larvae each year. By one conservative estimate, that amounts to around 780 billion larvae killed annually. If you lined up that many larvae end-to-end, the line would stretch from Earth to the Moon and back 25 times.

Interest in insect farming is booming. Insects have been heralded as a sustainable alternative to traditional animal agriculture, with a litany of articles touting the environmental benefits of insect protein. Socially minded investors have piled into the space, with recent funding rounds totalling more than $950 million. InnovaFeed plans to construct 20 production facilities by 2030. The company competes against the likes of AgriProtein in South Africa and Ÿnsect in France, both of which harbour comparably ambitious goals. The industry is small now, but poised to grow 50 times larger in the next decade.

Lost in all the hype is an uncomfortable question: do we want to encourage a food system that farms animals by the trillion?

By number of animals killed annually, the most farmed insects are crickets, mealworm beetle larvae and black soldier fly larvae. The most common slaughter methods on these farms include baking, boiling, freezing and shredding. In most jurisdictions, there are no welfare regulations that govern insect slaughter. Operators are free to kill the insects in whatever manner is most efficient.

The word ‘farm’ typically evokes images of green pastures, but insect farms are industrial complexes – more akin to manufacturing plants than pastured meadows. Black soldier fly larvae and mealworm beetle larvae are generally raised in large plastic bins, while crickets are raised in cardboard lattices. Although some farms pay lip service to the welfare of their insect livestock, in practice the animals are too numerous to be treated as anything other than a material input to a chemical process. On one black soldier fly farm in China, workers use a vacuum tube to transport live insects from their growth racks to a mechanical separator that sorts larvae from waste. The animals are then loaded onto a conveyor belt and sent through a large oven to be baked to death. The dried insects can be processed into pellets, chitin, oil and powdered meal.

There is much we do not know about the conditions in which farmed insects are reared. Industry executives are tight-lipped about proprietary strategies that might give them a competitive advantage. But concentrated animal agriculture has not gone well for the estimated 74 billion land animals and approximately 51 to 167 billion fish killed for food on commercial farms every year. We have little reason to suspect that farmers are taking better care of insects. To be profitable, insects must be farmed at very high densities. And while some species of insects prefer group living, for others, high density is likely to increase the risk of disease and cannibalism. As with other animals subjected to factory farming, humans are pressing insects into conditions for which they are not well adapted.

Whether we should care about what humans do to insects depends, in part, on the moral status of insects. Some people believe that all animals, no matter how small, matter morally. Many others reject this view, arguing that only sentient creatures – who can consciously experience pleasure and pain – matter from a moral point of view. Even if we accept this more restrictive view, we should be wary of mistreating insects. Insects might be sentient. And given the number of individual animals at stake, we should err on the side of caution.

The scientific evidence for insect sentience is stronger than you might expect... (MORE)
Zinjanthropos Offline
Before we became #1 predator I don’t think our sentience mattered a hill of beans to the animals and insects that fed upon our ancestors. They still don’t, try swimming across a crocodile swamp or shark infested water. How many people against animal slaughter for consumption care about a poor mosquito (maybe a malaria spreader) when they give it a whack? If the shoe were on the other foot and it could be on some planet out there where our intelligence is the lowest on a planetary scale so that we are hunted unmercifully or farmed. How do we know we’re not being farmed now or doing the farming for someone else....goddam cattle mutilators.

Farming is simply an easy low risk hunt. Thanks to all those in the abattoir.
confused2 Offline
I could be wrong but I think there is a hidden history to this.

Back in the day you'd keep a pig and give it all the food waste. Then bacon moved up the marketable scale and it was no longer waste food - farms started to produce food just for the pigs. Pigs, chickens, cows and sheep no longer eat waste food or graze land that was too difficult to farm in any other way - they now (mostly) live in cages, bins and barns and their food arrives in tankers. 

I'm taking a break.

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