How to Turn a Pest into a Source of Food

Most people are familiar with reports or stories of huge swarms of locusts that descend on a cultivated field and eat everything in sight, before they move on to the next field. Human agricultural practices, with their monotonous row after row of a single crop, exacerbate this problem, both by providing these jumping and flying – and hence, highly mobile – insects with foods that they clearly like to eat and, through the indiscriminate use of pesticides, by killing off all their potential predators. It seems not to have occurred to anyone that this calamity can easily be turned into a source of valuable protein that can be fed to other animals such as ducks and chickens that are raised for food. Instead of harvesting the crop sown by the farmer, one can harvest the insects that eat it en masse.

The way to do this is as follows: large nets are used to capture the insects, which are then transferred to large, clear, thick plastic bags. The bags are then filled with carbon monoxide, which can be obtained in sufficient quantities from the exhaust pipe of any motorized vehicle or machine, after which they are sealed until all the insects are dead. This operation should only be performed outside in a well-ventilated area to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The dead insects are spread out in the sun to dry, after which they can either be fed directly to farm animals, or they can be shipped to a factory where they are ground up and transformed into a form, such as pellets, which can be sold as feed to animal farmers.[1] Because carbon monoxide is used to kill the insects, they will not contain any harmful poisons, apart from those that have been sprayed on the crops, which could end up in the meat and other animal products that are later eaten by human beings.

This is a low-tech solution to a perennial problem that all the research, efforts, and experiments of agricultural scientists haven’t been able to solve. In fact, it is precisely the widespread implementation of the methods of industrial agriculture that has created this problem or made it worse.

A similar approach can be employed in the case of mice, rats, and other rodents. These animals tend to proliferate wherever human beings live in great numbers, which usually results in the elimination of all their natural predators, such as predatory birds, snakes, and carnivorous mammals. Why cannot these rodents be caught, cooked, and sold as pet food? The fact that cats and dogs occasionally catch and eat mice and rats shows that they are not averse to eating them.[2] This would be a better way of feeding these carnivorous human companions than raising farm animals or catching fish that are turned into pet food, both of which methods cause pollution, use up significant amounts of agricultural land, or further reduce already depleted fish populations.

In the case of invasive aquatic species that are due to human foolishness or carelessness, such as the introduction of a species in an environment where it previously hadn’t existed before, they can be harvested manually or mechanically as feed or fertilizer for agricultural lands.[3] This can also be done with algae that proliferate due to the runoff and concentration of chemical fertilizers in bodies of water, where they become a major problem by upsetting the former balance that existed in the ecosystem. If these overabundant organisms are harvested, cleansed of salt where necessary, dried, and then applied to agricultural lands, they will increase the land’s fertility by increasing its content of organic matter. Even if they are applied while still alive, they will not pose a threat of unchecked proliferation, as they do in the water, since aquatic species cannot survive on land.[4]

These solutions to man-made problems result from the recognition of the interconnectedness of all life. Because the myopic scientific approach to solving these and other problems considers them in isolation from the whole of which they form a part, it attempts only to eradicate the pest species, often by using poisons that have harmful effects on other species. By considering them in the context of the ecosystem of which they form a part, one can transform a pest into a valuable resource, while avoiding the use of dangerous chemicals, and also reducing the consumption of other things, such as animal feed or artificial fertilizers.

[1] It is important to ensure that the farmer who suffers crop losses as a result of locusts, which are merely large numbers of swarming grasshoppers, receives a part of the revenue from their sale to poultry or other animal farmers. Otherwise, it could happen that a company that captures the locusts from the farmer’s fields charges the farmer for this service and then keeps all the revenue from their sale to other farmers. One way to ensure this is by permitting the farmer to retain ownership of the dead locusts, since they were captured on one’s property.

Even if the particular method that I have proposed turns out not to be feasible, the basic idea – capturing and killing the insects using non-toxic substances or means, and then feeding them to farm animals like chickens – could still be implemented using other methods.

[2] Many pet owners will object to this proposal because they find the idea of eating mice, rats, and other rodents repulsive and unsanitary. In doing so, they are making the mistake of projecting their tastes and preferences onto their pets, who clearly do not share their finicky owners’ scruples. After all, there are many birds that consume worms, caterpillars, insect larvae, and other small creatures which clearly they find delicious, to judge by the way they avidly search for them and swallow them up.

[3] In many coastal areas, the inhabitants have traditionally harvested seaweed that is carried by waves and storms onto shores and applied them to their fields to increase their fertility.

[4] It is important to make sure that the large-scale removal of these invasive species does not have negative effects on the ecosystem in which they are found. For instance, besides providing nourishment, some fish, insects, or amphibians may lay their eggs on the leaves or stems of these plants, or seek shelter or protection among them from predators.