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Edible insects - defining knowledge gaps in biological and ethical considerations of entomophagy.

ABSTRACT

While seeking novel food sources to feed the increasing population of the globe, several alternatives have been discussed, including algae, fungi or in vitro meat. The increasingly propagated usage of farmed insects for human nutrition raises issues regarding food safety, consumer information and animal protection. In line with law, insects like any other animals must not be reared or manipulated in a way that inflicts unnecessary pain, distress or harm on them. Currently, there is a great need for research in the area of insect welfare, especially regarding species-specific needs, health, farming systems and humane methods of killing. Recent results from neurophysiological, neuroanatomical and behavioral sciences prompt caution when denying consciousness and therefore the likelihood of presence of pain and suffering or something closely related to it to insects. It also needs to be determined what the costs of implementing welfare standards would be, and whether we are willing to pay the price. From an animal protection point of view, these issues should be satisfyingly solved before propagating and establishing intensive husbandry systems for insects as a new type of mini-livestock factory farming.