Vegans say ‘No’ to eating insects even if it combats global warming

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Many non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores are open to including insects in their diet. For vegans, however, that is not an option, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.

Consumption of foods of insect origin is encouraged as a response to the environmental impact of meat production. Foods made from insects have a relatively low ecological footprint, and due to their high nutrition content, they can be a sustainable supplement to our existing sources of protein.

In Western countries, insects aren’t traditionally regarded as food, and consumers’ willingness to eat foods of insect origin is weak. However, the likelihood of accepting insects as food tends to increase with consumers’ awareness of the environmental impact of food production.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Helsinki examined consumers’ intentions to consume foods of insect origin among vegans, non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores. They examined the attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and food neophobia toward the consumption of foods of insect origin, as well as the conditions for eating insect-based foods among these dietary groups. Altogether 567 people participated in the study by filling out an online survey. Out of the respondents, 73% were omnivores, 22% were non-vegan vegetarians and 5% were vegans.

Vegans held the most rigid negative attitude toward consuming foods of insect origin, and their subjective norm to eat insects was weaker compared to that of omnivores and non-vegan vegetarians. Vegans’ perceived behavioural control over their eating of insects was stronger compared to that of omnivores and non-vegan vegetarians. Furthermore, vegans were significantly more determined than others that they would not eat foods of insect origin, even if they were nutritious, safe, affordable, and convenient. Vegans’ weak intention, negative attitude, and low willingness to eat insects in the future exhibit their different dietarian identity compared to that of omnivores and non-vegan vegetarians.

Non-vegan vegetarians, on the other hand, held the most positive attitude toward eating insects, and both non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores thought that insect consumption is wise and offers a solution to the world’s nutrition problems. By contrast, vegans thought that insect consumption is irresponsible and morally wrong.

“This is something we expected: we expected there to be differences between these three groups, and we expected vegans to have the most negative attitude towards eating insects. Vegans see insects as living beings, just like any other animals. It was also highlighted in the vegans’ survey responses that eating insects in the West doesn’t solve the world’s shortage of food, especially when edible food goes to waste all the time,” Professor Anna-Liisa Elorinne from the University of Eastern Finland says.

However, the findings can’t be generalised to all people representing the studied dietary categories. The researchers used convenience sampling, which has probably created a selection bias in terms of a more positive attitude toward insect consumption among the respondents compared to that of the population in general. Furthermore, the respondents were mostly women, highly educated, and city dwellers, a demographic profile known to impact food choice.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

1 comment

  1. Interesting article, but it seems incomplete to me.

    The title mentions global warming, but the only allusion to it is when the article says, “Consumption of foods of insect origin is encouraged as a response to the environmental impact of meat production.” Even then, it isn’t directly explained with any scientific findings or evidence how detrimental animal agriculture is to the planet. There is so much readily available scientific data about animal vs plant-based agriculture, that I’m truly surprised it wasn’t included to support your argument.

    Secondly, the article didn’t mention that a Vegan lifestyle already greatly reduces an individual’s green house emissions. It’s the single most impactful and practical thing that a person can do to combat the negative effects global warming. As it suggests in the article, if global warming where to irreparably destroy the planet (which it very well is and might), I don’t think that blaming vegans for refusing to eat insects, a morally consistent stance in alignment with the definition of Veganism, makes much sense at all – even if insect farming is somehow less resource dependent than plant-base farming. But the way that the title is phrased is almost accusatory, where vegans are regarded as contributing to global warming if they refuse to eat insects. It sounds bit jaded and biased.

    I would have also been interested to know what the logistics are of farming insects, so that they could be compared to plant-based farming. I imagine it would be much less detrimental than traditional animal agriculture, but less than plant-based farming? That’s the question.

    Correct me if I misinterpreted the article! Thanks for the post.

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