Do Insects Feel Pain? (Is Killing a Fly Vegan?)


Insects are arthropods, which are animals.

They have animal cells, they have a form of a nervous system, and ingest food to get energy.

So in the simplest and most direct sense of the question, insects are of course animals.

If that’s all you were after here, there’s your answer.

But a related question that is interesting is whether or harming (killing or eating) insects is okay for a vegan.

So let’s look at that.

Is Killing Or Eating Insects Vegan?

I’ll say up front that I don’t have a nice and easy answer here. This is one of the “grayest” areas of veganism.

But I’ll summarize my thoughts and what I’ve read on the topic.

The questions at hand, which all revolve around the same concept are:

  • Can vegans eat insects?
  • Can they kill them them?
  • Is spraying pesticides wrong?
  • Is testing on insects wrong?

I believe these all relate back to one single question:

Do Insects Feel Pain?

I don’t know much about insects, but here’s what people who specialize in the field say:

  • Insects don’t have the same types of pain receptors that humans do.
  • However, that doesn’t rule out that they feel pain, we’re just not sure yet. They might not, but there’s no concrete proof yet.
  • Ongoing studies will possibly have the answer.

So we can’t say for sure that insects don’t feel pain or suffer. They want to live, and they’ve shown the ability to learn and show certain emotions in studies.

That kind of reason is why vegans don’t use animal products in the first place.

And unless you have definitive proof that insects don’t feel pain, I don’t eating insects or harming them could be considered vegan.

Honey is not considered vegan by most, so why would harming other insects besides bees be okay?

I get that insects are gross to most of us, and many of us have phobias of them. But just because you don’t like something doesn’t justify harming it.

With that line of thinking, pesticides that go beyond simple deterrence would not be considered vegan either. That’s probably a more complicated issue than I’m making it out to be (I don’t know anything about farming to be honest).

What about killing insects in self defense? Some insects are actually harmful to you or others. I don’t think anyone would fault you for killing them, just as vegans would be okay with fending off a lion from eating them.

In summary: A lot of this is my own reasoning, but if it makes sense to you, the gist of the answer is that insects are animals, and harming them unnecessarily (i.e. self-defense) is not really in line with a vegan philosophy. Same goes for eating clams or using products like beeswax that are used in products like gum and lip balm.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below, I’m interested in what you have to say.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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