Ethics and Sourcing
I get most of my insects natural death, from friends both in the USA, and overseas. While I still have a backstock of farm raised insects, I’ve only been purchasing new farm raised insects for commissions.
What are “farm raised” insects?
Farm raised is the most common way of raising insects. They are produced in mass overseas, typically in Southeast Asia. They are bred in captivity, and culled shortly after hatching, while a few are left to create the next generation. An easy way to spot a culled insect is it being perfectly intact (no rips, tears, no legs or antennae missing). This is almost always a sign it was culled “ex-pupae”. These insects are also considered “A1” meaning they are perfect or near-perfect quality.
Sometimes, but rarely, natural death insects can be A1 quality. I’ve had a few hand raised moths pass away naturally and look perfect, but it’s impossible to raise hundreds of insects and have them all turn out A1 quality while letting them live their full lives.
When I raise my own insects, I call them “hand raised”, these always die of old age, or what I call “natural death”.
What does “ethically sourced” mean to you?
Some insect sellers may claim to be "ethically sourced", but I prefer not to use this phrase because I think it’s too ambiguous. Ethics depend on each person's morals and values, and some things may be ethical to some but not others. To me, "ethically sourced" means the creature got to live out its full life, and was not killed by humans. As I took many animal welfare and ethics classes as a part of my Bachelors of Animal Science major, it is very important to me to be transparent about these things, and to educate others as well.
I prefer to use words like "sustainably" or "responsibly" for my sourcing, as most butterfly farms raise insects to be culled but release a larger population back into the wild. This helps support native pollinator populations and creates jobs for small families.
I will sometimes, but rarely, buy extra bits from taxidermists and USDFW licensed/tagged hunters (paws, pelts, bones) to reduce their waste.
I get all of my rabbit heads, feet, and pelts from a small family farm that raises them for meat, and I purchase the parts they can't eat to reduce waste. Occasionally, I will also purchase their rabbits that happen to pass from disease, sickness, or otherwise rendering them unsafe for consumption.
Personally, I also refrain from using "ethically sourced" when it comes to roadkill and foraged bones, since I don’t consider roadkill “ethical” by my morals, and foraged carcasses could have passed in a number of unknown ways, and I try to be as transparent as possible.
I will never support the purchasing or use of Chinese farmed animals. The telltale signs are the mass sales of snake skeletons, mink skulls, cat skulls... essentially any animal that's culled in mass for taxidermy purposes.
If I’m able to find these skulls second hand, or from sellers I trust, I will use them.
Another thing to note is that I will never use bats in my pieces. I purchased one before I knew the truth behind their sourcing, and now will never use them again. You can find more information about bat sourcing here.
As far as flowers go, I purchase them locally in Portland and dry them myself. I will also forage what I can from public lands, parks, etc.
When the weather permits, I enjoy growing my own flowers, usually on my parents property.
I also have quite a large back-stock from when I managed a floral department and saved flowers to dry before they headed to the compost.