Is torturing an insect less immoral than torturing a non-human primate?

Read another response by Eddy Nahmias, Stephen Maitzen
Read another response about Animals
Is torturing an insect less immoral than torturing a non-human primate?

I take it that being tortured implies the experience of pain or other suffering (physical or psychological) or, at the very minimum, the frustration of the victim's desires. Now, insect brains are surprisingly complex: according to Wikipedia, there are 100,000 neurons in the brain of a fruit fly, and as many as 10 million synapses; no doubt there are many more in mantids. But are insect brains complex enough that insects can experience pain, suffering, or frustration? I don't think anyone knows. But the answer may well be no, in which case your question would rest on a false presupposition.

But suppose an insect can be tortured. If a case of torture is otherwise gratuitous, then its degree of immorality probably varies with the suffering that it causes. It seems highly likely that at least some nonhuman primates can suffer to a greater degree than insects can, making it worse to torture them, all else being equal.

Related Terms