Anthony Westkamper touted the advantages of collecting photos of "bugs" rather than specimens (HumBug, Jan. 28), but he glaringly and disappointingly left one out: It doesn't require killing anything. In my book, that's a big one.
"But they're just bugs," you might say. True, they don't have a central nervous system and presumably don't feel fear or pain the way we do, but does that make their lives inherently less valuable than ours? Judging the value of other beings by our own standards is self-serving and dangerous.
"But they don't live long anyway," you might say. True, most insects have very short adult lifespans, but they serve important ecological functions during that time. The removal of any individual "bug" from the system might deprive some other, "more valuable" animal of its next meal.
"But there are so many of them," you might say. One could say the same of people. And, who's to say there are "enough"? In fact, it now appears that many insect populations are crashing, and the presumed effects of that are being seen in dramatic declines of songbird populations, not to mention pollination issues. We used to think Rocky Mountain locusts and passenger pigeons were inexhaustible; now they're extinct.
"But we need specimens for science," you might say. I'm a scientist and I accept the need for museum collections, but let's face it: Most private insect collections crumble to dust in dresser drawers and are eventually thrown away.
I would argue that killing of "bugs" or any other animals for personal collections is anachronistic and ethically indefensible.
— Ken Burton, Arcata