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Thread: Arthropods

  1. #1
    Plant-Based Person Lentil's Avatar
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    Arthropods

    This has come up a few times, so I thought I would start a thread for it. I intentionally consume some insect products. Yes, I know that's not vegan.

    I just don't really care about arthropods, at least not enough to put them in league with chickens, cows, fish, etc. I've read about how honeybees can have pretty complex behavior, but complexity does not mean sentience. I have to draw the line somewhere, and this is what makes sense to me.

    If I start worrying about the welfare of honeybees, do I have to worry about every mosquito I swat (and mosquitos love me, unless I'm covered in DEET)? Or how about that nest of ants that was living in my ceiling a few years ago that I had killed? I generally don't go out of my way to harm bugs, but I don't really care to let them have free run of my house.

    Anyway, feel free to discuss the topic here.

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    Thank you, Lentil.
    ---

    I find this to be a very interesting topic.

    Roughly 3000 human ethnic groups eat 1417 different species of insects in 80% of the world's countries. People who say, "Humans don't eat bugs (intentionally), at least not since they were cave people." don't have their facts right. They are normalizing their own, western culture, as being "correct" or typical.

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    Plant-Based Person Krrez's Avatar
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    Thanks for those numbers Mahk, I had no idea that many species were currently consumed. Though I did know that Chinese people ate scorpions and Masai ate sugar ants.(I think they were Masai, they were drinking blood in that episode of something that I saw them on and I know the Masai pretty much don't eat plant matter.)

    Also, I agree with Lentil. I hate cockroaches with a passion and I feel like a hypocrite if I then get weird about a trace of honey in something otherwise vegan. Especially when all other varieties have HFCS. =/
    But I definitely don't eat lobster and they're arthropods too, so I don't draw the line quite at arthropodia myself. I don't know a science-y way to say "bugs"
    "I disagree with what you say sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
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    Plant-Based Person Lentil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krrez View Post
    But I definitely don't eat lobster and they're arthropods too, so I don't draw the line quite at arthropodia myself. I don't know a science-y way to say "bugs"
    Oh, good point. I'm not really trying to draw a line phylogenetically -- I originally had written "insects" but then I realized I should include spiders and centipedes. I didn't realize crustaceans are arthropods too!

    I don't eat seafood either (shrimp, lobster, etc). I'm not really sure if they are sentient, but I don't see any reason to eat them. It probably helps that I've always lived in the midwest and we don't really have good seafood, so I'll never know what I'm missing.

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    Shrimp and lobster are very high in cholesterol so there's no reason to eat them nutritionally. "The taste good" would be a valid one though.

    Lobsters are smart. They are territorial , heirarchal and fight over hunting ground rights. They recognize eachother too and if two that have battled before cross paths the victor of the previous battle shows dominance over the other and the loser of that previous fight will back down. This memory and heirarchy of who is dominant and who must accept defeat and back away seems to last for upto 4 weeks.

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    Plant-Based Person Krrez's Avatar
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    I wrote a whole post and apparently my login timed out while I was writing it and it entirely disappeared. I dunno why that happens so often on this site. I need to get back in the habit of copying my entire post before hitting. "post".

    Anyway, it looks like in order to draw such a line you'd need to say chelicerata, myriapoda, and hexapoda (Yay, wikipedia). So I can see why you'd go with arthropod. xD

    I think caring less about non-chordates is probably anthropocentrism. We care more about other animals who are more like us. If trees think they probably care more about the fate of ferns than leopards. So maybe it's chordatocentrism? Is that even a proper word?
    "I disagree with what you say sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
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    Rooted Colinski's Avatar
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    Glad you clarified, Lentil. You could have written "bugs," but that would just be speciesist

    I can't link to them, but I have read of multiple studies suggesting the ability of crabs and lobsters to react to pain in a way that suggests suffering. As such, I'm not about to start eating sea arthropods. But Arthropoda is a big phylum and I'm not sure we can assume all of them share sentience. Similarly, some sea mollusks like octopuses and squids have advanced nervous systems, but I'm reasonably skeptical that slugs have the same despite also being mollusks. Not that I'm eating slugs, but no doubt many are exterminated for the sake of the leafy green veggies we all eat. :/

    I, too, find it difficult to feel sympathy for insects. Oddly, I do refrain from killing spiders if I can get them outside safely, yet usually don't think twice about swatting a gnat. Don't know if it's the size difference or what (or perhaps an extension of my odd fondness for solitary carnivores like cats and owls). Also, while I generally refrain from honey, I don't find it productive to make a fuss about it. I am reminded of a recent conversation with another vegan who pointed out that locally-produced honey might be better for bees (and everyone else) in the long run than an organic sweetener produced overseas, because of the environmental costs of transport. Nothing is as simple as it seems on the face.

    This reminds me of a piece in Slate that caused a buzz a little while ago, pointing out that oysters show zero signs of sentience and are classified as animals but behave more like plants, and as such should not be a concern for ethical vegans: http://www.slate.com/id/2248998/
    Vegan Soapbox, which occasionally has good writing but often falls into severe irrationality, ran an angry rant about how now they will have to clarify to people that as a vegan they don't eat oysters, which I though was a bit of an overreaction since the second paragraph of the Slate piece says:
    Because I eat oysters, I shouldn't call myself a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there's an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.
    I am reminded of Emerson's quote:
    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds
    Please note, I don't bring that quote up to belittle people who refrain from killing insects, which I think is plenty noble, but more that we all have to make our best ethical guesses going through life and others will invariably make different choices with the same intentions. People that don't see the shades of grey are not looking very hard, and that's what I am making a point about. I don't like feeling like a "bad vegan" for making what seem like the best choices I can, balancing ethics, reason, and practicality. I know I'm not alone on this site, or it'd still be called "Vegan Represent."

    I could write more but need to get back to work.

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    The notion that some beings with brains and nervous systems don't feel pain strikes me as being rather odd. Anything with a brain and a nervous system certainly has the mechanical/physical elements necessary to at least potentially feel pain and suffering and the argument that some have such a little brain it is "just not sophisticated enough to feel pain in the same sense as a mammal" is just mammalcentrism (more new words!) as far as I'm concerned and so that's where I draw the line, personally. Who is to say that "their primitive brain processing just 'doesn't matter' "?

    Brain plus nervous system = Mahk no kill intentionally (with rare exceptions such as self defense)
    Last edited by Mahk; 05-17-2011 at 12:56 PM.

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    Plant-Based Person Lentil's Avatar
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    I don't have time to write a real response right now, but I just wanted to say that these are not the type of responses I expected. You guys rock!

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    Rooted Colinski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahk View Post
    The notion that some beings with brains and nervous systems don't feel pain strikes me as being rather odd. Anything with a brain and a nervous system certainly has the mechanical/physical elements necessary to at least potentially feel pain and suffering and the argument that some have such a little brain it is "just not sophisticated enough to feel pain in the same sense as a mammal" is just mammalcentrism (more new words!) as far as I'm concerned and so that's where I draw the line, personally. Who is to say that "their primitive brain processing just 'doesn't matter' "?

    Brain plus nervous system = Mahk no kill intentionally (with rare exceptions such as self defense)
    I don't disagree at all. I think it's perfectly ethically reasonable, and even admirable, to err on the side of caution with regard to animals that we don't outright know feel pain. But that said, it still is easier to feel sympathy for the things more like us (and of course easier to interpret their pain and suffering). But I wouldn't call it mammal-centric, since presumably all of us don't like the idea of harming fish, fowl, etc. I think Krrez was right saying "chordatocentrism" though "vertabrocentrism" would probably be just as accurate (depends on your concern for the hagfish, I suppose).

    What about animals with no brains, such as the aforementioned oyster?

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    I heart my mutt shananigans's Avatar
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    I think it's unlikely that animals without a central nervous system, such as oysters, experience pain in the way we think of it. They have a more primitive nervous system that allows them to respond to various stimuli and irritants, which no doubt give them a survival advantage, but I don't really believe they are self-aware. I still wouldn't eat mollusks, or arthropods. One reason is merely aesthetic, they gross me out a bit so it would be my personal preference to keep all such things far away from my mouth. I'm also concerned about the negative effects on the environment. For example, I know shrimp are commonly collected by trawling which is not selective and destroys the sea bed.

    I personally abstain from honey and insect products in general. It's common practice for bee keepers to manipulate and kill bees to maintain their hives. I don't know how individual bees may be affected by this, or if they suffer, but it just stinks of entitlement and speciesism to me. Honey and other bee products are easy enough for me to avoid, unlike bees being used to pollinate crops. I know it's next to impossible to avoid all exploitation of and harm to other creatures in the production of food and other necessities, but I when I can make a choice to avoid it, I do.

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    Protist-Based Person The.Protist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lentil View Post
    If I start worrying about the welfare of honeybees, do I have to worry about every mosquito I swat (and mosquitos love me, unless I'm covered in DEET)?
    Well, if you think swatting a mosquito that is trying to bite you and possibly infect you with something is bad, then is it OK if a bear eats you?

    Quote Originally Posted by shananigans View Post
    I think it's unlikely that animals without a central nervous system, such as oysters, experience pain in the way we think of it.
    Does this make it ok to eat cows if I genetically engineer them to have no pain receptors? Can I eat people who are in persistent vegetative states and don't feel pain and are not self-aware? I hear they are pretty soylent.


    I think a lot of the bugs-are-ok is because bugs are small. If cows were the size of nematodes we probably would eat just as much in our unfiltered vinegar. And if nematodes were the size of Shai-Hulud I don't know if many of us would be eating them.

    Personally, I don't think its that difficult to avoid insect products (as long as you ignore this). Likewise with sponges (loofah are better anyways). Though I do admit to having eaten some insectivorous plants. But then I could be saving future victims. I don't kill spiders, centipedes, or other carnivorous critters in my house. But the cats dispatch some of them anyways. I have ant problems occasionally, but I am going to try oleic acid as a deterrent on the next wave.
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    Plant-Based Person Lentil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahk View Post
    Roughly 3000 human ethnic groups eat 1417 different species of insects in 80% of the world's countries.
    Very interesting! Do you have a link or reference for more info?

    Quote Originally Posted by Krrez View Post
    Also, I agree with Lentil. I hate cockroaches with a passion and I feel like a hypocrite if I then get weird about a trace of honey in something otherwise vegan. Especially when all other varieties have HFCS. =/
    I love HFCS , but, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels there is a conflict here. Why are honeybees precious, while other insects are pests?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colinski View Post
    Glad you clarified, Lentil. You could have written "bugs," but that would just be speciesist
    Well, I do admit to being speciesist (but probably not in the way that you might think of the word), but I do strive to be correct. I hesitated to use "bugs" since that can mean so many things - including microorganisms, which I readily consume.

    It's not exactly that I don't feel sympathy for insects. Sometimes I'll see an insect struggling so much just to survive, and I definitely do feel sympathy. But I think that sympathy is from me projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto the insect, rather than the insect actually having thoughts and feelings of its own.

    To me, the relevant question is not the sensation of pain but whether the animal has consciousness, thought, an understanding of the outside world. Of course these are difficult things to measure, and it seems that people who study these things are somewhat conflicted about insects which doesn't help matters. For now I am going by the crude comparison that the brains of mammals, birds, and fish are quite similar to mine so I am going to be really really careful not to harm them, but the brains of insects are not just dissimilar but much less complex so I'm not going to be quite so worried about harming them.

    Quote Originally Posted by shananigans View Post
    I still wouldn't eat mollusks, or arthropods.
    Me neither. Not that I think it is necessarily ethically wrong, but I would reject it due to the ick factor. In a survival situation, I would definitely eat mollusks or arthropods before I would harm mammals, birds, or fish.

    Quote Originally Posted by The.Protist View Post
    Well, if you think swatting a mosquito that is trying to bite you and possibly infect you with something is bad, then is it OK if a bear eats you?
    Don't get me wrong, I will defend myself against people and animals of any type. It's just that if I kill a mosquito I don't feel bad about it, but if I had to kill a bear (assuming I could!), I would feel bad that I had killed a sentient being. But, also happy that I survived a bear attack, I guess.

    Those of you who do avoid insect products, how do you avoid shellac on your produce?

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    Plant-Based Person Krrez's Avatar
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    I thought they weren't allowed to put shiny stuff on organic produce? I wish they wouldn't put stuff on produce, it's totally aesthetic, isn't it? It doesn't make it last longer.
    "I disagree with what you say sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
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    Plant-Based Person Lentil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krrez View Post
    I thought they weren't allowed to put shiny stuff on organic produce? I wish they wouldn't put stuff on produce, it's totally aesthetic, isn't it? It doesn't make it last longer.
    The Vegetarian Resource Group says shellac is approved for use on organic produce. It probably has to be organic shellac, though.

    I think shellac might afford some protection against drying out and scratches, but it's probably pretty minimal. It is probably mostly cosmetic.

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