Do Insects Feel Pain?

Eating insects provide many of the nutrients that are hard to get as a vegetarian or vegan. Since insects are nutritious and sustainable to produce, another important question we get asked is whether insects feel pain or stress.

Most of us have witnessed a fly smashing into a window repeatedly as if it doesn’t even hurt or is affected. But does this mean that insects don’t feel pain?

Several studies investigate insects as living beings. These studies consider to what degree insects can feel pain, if they have feelings and if they are affected in the same way as mammals.

A lot of these studies have shown that insects do not possess a cognitive perception of their surroundings or feelings. It is therefore unlikely that insects feel pain, but not impossible. Insects are invertebrates, which have fewer neurons and a much less complex nervous system than mammals, which controls the sense of pain.

Most insects only contain about 250.000 neurons, whereas a common rat contains 200 million neurons and a human has approximately 86 billion neurons. This means their ability it feel pain is very likely much less than mammals. 

Since the number of neurons is quite restricted, it is reasonable to assume that insects do not have a bodily consciousness, which could be considered essential to feel pain.

It is still relevant to know whether insects are treated humanely. The way the insects that we use are produced is in small dark "shelves" in a farm, which is very similar to their natural habitat. When they are killed they are first frozen into hibernation before they die - meaning they feel absolutely no pain in the process.

If you want to read more about this topic, you should read this article written by entomologists, which is experts who have studied and work with insects. You could also read this article from Thoughtco which is based on scientific studies. Both are really interesting and thought provoking.

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