Ethics and insects in dog food

Is it ethical to raise insects in large numbers and use them as a source of quality protein in food? In fact, how are insects “treated” in a livestock farm? Do they have a better life than other livestock in large scale industrial farms?

These are questions we, at Eat Small, often hear and which are important when it comes to animal welfare.

The animal proteins used in conventional dog food (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish) come from an industry being more and more criticized for its negative impact on the environment:
– Significant greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to global warming
– Land deforestation (for crops used to feed livestock).
– Significant use of freshwater reserves for livestock farming.
– Overfishing of wild fish to provide food for aquaculture.

For an increasing number of people, these impacts on nature are a strong motivation to reduce, or even stop meat consumption, and find alternative proteins for themselves and their pets.

The other motivator to boycott animal meat consumption is the questionable farming conditions and the welfare (or lack of welfare) of the animals while they are in captivity and until they are killed. All over the world, there are many voices against industrial livestock farming and the suffering it causes to animals. In 2019, vegan groups and organizations denouncing cruelty in animal farming have never had so much influence.

WHAT ABOUT INSECT FARMING?

Unlike what some people think, we at Eat Small, do not catch wild insects. Our insects come from certified farms which meet all the requirements of European production and hygiene standards for proteins of animal origin. It is a sustainable and ecological farming, because for the same final edible protein volume, insects require a fraction of the resources (water, land, energy, CO2 emissions) during their lifetime compared to other livestock, and without any loss (100% of the insects is edible)

Ultimately, these insects are once again animals being exploited by man. Many people ask us if breeding methods take their well-being into account, or if insects suffer when they are killed.

Let’s look at the life of the Hermetia illucens (black soldier flies) which insect protein composes 30% of our tasty food for active dogs (Eat Small WALD).

Adult flies have a longevity of 2 weeks. They are kept in large cages made of a fabric similar to mosquito nets. They drink sugary water and lay eggs in special boxes. These are collected and placed in ideal conditions of humidity. After 5 days, the eggs hatch and the small larvae remain for 8 days in a warm and humid environment, with vegetable food. It is a warm and safe from dangers environment. They are then transferred to a bioreactor, in large drawers filled with a semi-solid substrate where they find all the food they need to grow for another 1 week. In this nutritious substrate, they are thousands (millions), stuck together and this is exactly what they love and need to thrive. They find themselves in an “ideal” living situation, which often does not occur in nature.

Depending on the insect farms, there are different ways to perform euthanasia. For example, gradually lowering the temperature to induce a natural state of hibernation until death. Another method is to place the larvae in a steam room at 130 degrees. They then die in less than a second. In short, insect farms can be considered to offer animals an ideal and stress-free life (and death). The same certainly cannot be said about today’s conventional livestock farming facilities.

AND WHAT ABOUT ETHICS IN ALL THIS?

Insects are invertebrates and do not feel pain as we understand it. One of the insect farmers we work with reminded us that « those who do not want to kill insects should no longer drive a car because every car ride kills a lot of them. The train as an alternative is no better: it is estimated that Deutsche Bahn kills more than 10,000 tonnes of insects per year! »

The issue of animal ethics is being studied by Professor Potthast of the University of Tübingen in Germany. The fundamental statement is that society must decide how it wants to treat animals. It is ethically acceptable to determine different categories of animals (mammals, poultry, fish, insects) and to treat them differently. Today, it is ethically permissible to kill insects for a wide range of reasons (voluntary or involuntary) and by a multitude of means: fly swatter, chemical or biological pesticides, transport or even just by walking in the forest.

Insect farming and their use as an alternative source of protein allows:
– to reduce mass livestock farming and the suffering of other types of animals
– a better food yield (fewer resources for the same volume of protein)
– a reduction of adverse environmental impacts.

By feeding your dog Eat Small delicious insect protein-based dog foods, you are actively promoting good farming behaviour, reducing animal suffering and saving natural ressources.

Together with Eat Small, become a superheroe of ethic and sustainability!

Véronique Glorieux is a canadian-board veterinarian who cumulates more than 10 years of medical work and experience with dogs and cats. Animal wellfare and environment are 2 topics that moves her. She lives now in Berlin, where she co-founded Eat Small and uses her experience in a different field of practice. With healthy and sustainable insect-based pet food she aims to support both the health of pets and of the planet.

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