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The number of insects required to produce a single meal is orders of magnitude higher than the number of chickens or especially cows required to produce that meal. Even if we give insects less moral weight per individual than bigger animals, when we sum over all the insects involved, the total suffering to produce a meal adds up to a big amount. a For example: "One would have to eat about a thousand grasshoppers to equal the amount of protein in a twelve-ounce steak." I suspect one reason people don't mind eating insects as much as livestock is that people picture a single insect and think, "Meh, that little thing isn't very important. So I'm ok with eating insects." But they forget to add up all the insects that go into their food, which collectively look more like a big animal than a tiny one. In addition, insects may inherently suffer more than large animals if they have higher mortality rates. I don't have good data on mortality rates on insect farms. Presumably mortality rates are lower than in the wild, because farmed insects theoretically have more food, fewer predators, less disease, etc. That said, some insect farmers may not monitor conditions very closely, so it's likely that sometimes the farmed insects fare poorly. "A Bug's Life: Large-scale insect rearing in relation to animal welfare," section 3.3.6, discusses instances of high mortality rates from various diseases. Of course, wild insects probably have even higher mortality rates, and this is a main reason why I'm concerned about the vast amounts of insect suffering in nature. But even if farmed insects potentially live better lives than wild insects, this doesn't make it right to bring more of them into existence if their lives are still on average bad.
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