'I'll never eat anything with a face on' say the vegetarians, a little glibly I tend to feel. It's said that we start to look for the face anywhere and everywhere to know where we are, how we relate to our surroundings from a very early age, but is a face really the touchstone of relationship with another creature, an indication of a sufficiently high order to merit not to be killed and eaten? What other criteria are there?
Shellfish certainly don't have faces - though I suppose snails do after a fashion - but I don't see many vegetarians partaking of those. Neither quite do cephalopods, but they are clearly advanced, intelligent creatures, more so than many fish, gentle and peaceable in the case of octopus and cuttlefish, savage and repulsive in that of Humboldt squid, but brainy either way. I don't mind eating squid but I'll no longer eat octopus.
Then there's the presence or absence of a backbone. I've been laughed at for this, once by the very person who was tenderly helping a tiny froglet across a quiet road talking sympathetically to it, while grasshoppers and other nearby invertebrates possibly at an equal level of development received no such compassionate assistance, but I do believe that the awareness of a skeleton, a set of organs, lungs and heart, a backbone with a brain on top, which, however tiny, look remarkably like ours, disposes us immediately to feel an enhanced level of kinship.
Of course we do respond in a similar way to bees, for example, and quite possibly caterpillars, but we've always been firmly taught of the virtues of the former, and like the latter, they are particularly endearing because, as one commenter pointed out, they are furry. I wonder why, when we have largely evolved beyond furriness ourselves we have such a love, almost a need, for it in other animals? Feathers are interesting but rarely inspire the same warmth of feeling.
It doesn't stop some of us eating them of course, though many of us feel more comfortable eating things with fur and scales than we do other mammals. I know too that so much of all this is culturally determined, but I think all these thing do influence us.
However, the face on the hornet as it is here does not make me warm to it, on the contrary, its expression appears hostile, sinister, horribly alien, though really, even the term 'expression' is misplaced and a projection, but even so...
It doesn't make me want to eat it either, but there are Japanese mountain folk who feel otherwise, and the hornets in question are considerably larger, scarier and bear us far more of what might be seen as animosity than our little crabro does. But I'll come to those next time.