Injuring invertebrates should bug the animal rights movement
by A. Rosen
While visiting India several years ago, I met people who practice the Jain religion. I think the Jain movement is ahead of the animal rights movement in some ways. For example, Jains include insects in their kindness to animals. I think that except for PETA, the animal rights movement turns its back on an estimated 90% of the animals on the planet, the insects. It’s not truly an “animal rights” movement. It’s a “fish-bird-reptile-mammal” movement.
Freddy the Fly
I believe insects have far more sentience than most people give them credit for. In Kinship With All Life (1976), one of the books that helped to launch the animal rights movement, J. Allen Boone devoted a chapter to a friendship that he had with Freddy the Fly.
I know someone who claimed to have relationships with mosquitoes. She showed me one of the mosquitoes. She could tell the difference in personalities between two mosquitoes who lived with her. I was inspired by her example, and I made friends with a spider. Like a cat or dog, he was scared at first, but hearing my sweet words, he gradually let me closer, and eventually I could pet him, and he rested on my hand.
I think people fail to see the sentience in insects for the same reason that people failed to see the sentience in dolphins, apes, dogs and other animals. Now the research is out, and we know that we greatly underestimated these animals. Likewise, one day we will feel the same, I think, about the insects––that it was our ignorance that made us doubt their ability to feel love, fear, and other emotions.
I feel ANIMALS 24-7 should, at the very least, investigate the issue of how sentient insects are, and whether the animal rights movement should include them. I think that to turn our backs on these creatures is a serious moral error.
Many animal rights activists who wouldn’t consider hurting a fish are smashing insects left and right. If the insects feel pain, how much suffering could be saved if publications like yours educated these activists about insects.
“I love all animals”
At least, introduce the possibility that insects may feel pain. Don’t just turn your back on them. They need you just as much as the cows and pigs do.
I love all animals, not just the furry, slimy, scaly, and feathery ones. On behalf of my suffering brothers and sisters, the insects, I ask you to please help them.
––A. Rosen, Ashland, Oregon
Buzz-back from ANIMALS 24-7:
We have often reported about scientific findings of sentience in invertebrates, and believe these findings are to be taken into account, especially in connection with such practices as boiling live crabs and lobsters for human consumption.
Relevant ANIMALS 24-7 articles include:
Realism is in order
But realistic thinking about the human relationship with insects––and the relationships of other animals with insects––is in order.
Mosquitoes, for example, transmit dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, and West Nile virus, among many other deadly diseases. Just these five diseases kill close to a million people per year now, and barely a decade ago killed twice that many. The mosquito toll on other species is many times higher. No land animal can remain healthy without finding some means of protection from mosquitoes, fleas, flies, ticks, and mites.
Further, the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization estimates that insects consume or render inedible about 20% of the cultivated food supply for humans and domesticated animals, despite intensive use of insecticides. Before the advent of insecticides in the mid-20th century, food crop losses to insects ran as high as 50%, and were a major cause of famine.
Less than half of 1% of all known insect species are harmful in any way to humans, or to our food crops and animals––but insects have evolved to parasitize or otherwise prey upon practically every other species, animal or plant, including each other. With due appreciation of insect pollinators, the evolution of non-insect animal species has come about largely through filling the ecological niche for insect control.
Indeed, the entire mammalian order appears to have evolved from insectivores. Even today, more than half of all mammals are insectivores, along with most amphibians, more than half of all birds, and many reptiles and fish.
While insect sentience may be appreciated, living without harming insects is not a possibility for most vertebrate species, ourselves included.