Entomophagy is consumption of insects by humans. Consumption of insects has been practiced by humans for ages. However, different cultures consumed insects for different reasons. In western and European cultures insect consumption is restricted to extreme conditions. In these cultures insects were considered to be repulsive organisms and their consumption was not condoned. In fact insects were viewed as causes of various health problems that inflicted pain on man. Currently, literary works portray insects as desirable creatures.
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Insect eating has existed for long in some cultures. Entomophagy is widely practiced in Eastern cultures and Africa. Members of these communities eat insects for their taste, for survival, and as a cultural expression. In western culture insect eating is largely regarded as a disgusting undertaking.
The aspect of insect eating for survival is emphasized in western media perhaps in an attempt to make entomophagy more acceptable. However, media and literary productions in the west are preoccupied with portraying entomophagy as exotic. Exoticism appears to be the driving force behind the emergence of television shows featuring insect eating and insect containing cuisines.
Exoticism appears to provoke the interest of the viewers and television audiences. Viewed from this perspective, entomophagy seems acceptable to the western viewer. Mass media and literary productions are increasingly portraying insects as acceptable creatures. This is evidenced by arguments supporting environmental protection. The love for nature should compel one to consider insects as part and parcel of a beautiful environment.
It has been argued that to love nature is to love everything in it. Previously insects were not considered as food in western culture. Therefore, accidental ingestion of insects would evoke a lot of misery and suffering. However, mass media and literary productions have helped shape the notion that insects are other food. Some people have accepted insects as alternative food. The aim is to give an impression that insects should not be reserved for extreme times only.
Insect eating is currently portrayed as a source of entertainment and awe. There are many television shows whose main content is insect eating. These shows tend be sensationalistic in nature. Entomophagy in the shows is packed in such a way that it provokes fear and disgust at the same time.
Insect eating is used to create spectacle. The television shows feature characters playfully eating insects. Before the emergence of these shows insects were largely viewed as disgusting creatures. They were perceived as dirty disease causing organisms. Few would dare touch them and even less would dare eat them.
Mass media and literary works are aiding change in attitude towards insects. Insect consumers can now critically examine their position as consumers. Similarly, they assist the consumers to examine their opinion of insects. Critical examination of consumers and products was suppressed in the past. In the process consumers get to understand that they must support conservation efforts.
In conclusion, entomophagy has always existed in various societies but the advent of popular culture has significantly affected our perception of insects. In the past western culture did not consider insects as ‘normal’ food. However, media has contributed to the perception of insects as ‘other’ food in the west. Insect cuisines are viewed as exotic delicacies worth trying. Media has used insect eating as a source of entertainment and amazement. This has contributed to the acceptance of insects as beautiful creatures.