Guide to Vegan “Pest” Control (Humane Products and Practices)

“Pest” control is defined as the management of species thought of as a “pests”—i.e. members of the animal kingdom that negatively impact human activities.1

Standard “pest” control measures are based on the amount of damage done, and can range from tolerance to management via deterrence (scarecrows, etc.) all the way to complete eradication of the animals or insects.

In contrast, humane “pest” control stops short of eradication by focusing on deterrence and humane trap and release techniques.

What we’ll do in this post is cover the most common humane animal and insect control practices and then go over the various techniques used per category of animal/insect.

Do Vegans Kill “Pests”

Do Vegans Kill Insects?

This is a rather controversial subject. While vegans avoid insect-derived substances and food products (honey, beeswax, etc.), there’s much more of a split in the vegan community as to whether or not it’s permissible to kill certain “pests” like rats and insects in one’s property (home, garden, etc.).

Do vegans kill insects? In short, some vegans kill insects and others do not. Most decisions regarding animal control are based on the threat level posed by the “pests” and whether there are any effective cruelty-free alternatives to eradication.2

There seems to be an ethical distinction between actively seeking out insects to exploit them for their resources (honey, confectioner’s glaze, etc.), and the killing of insects for “pest” control purposes.

In PETA’s official statement on the subject, the organization states “As with our dealings with our fellow humans, the determination of when lethal defense against insects and animals is acceptable must be judged on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the level of the threat and the alternatives that are available.”2

Arguments for Killing Insects and Other “Pests”

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a few of the more common arguments you’ll likely run across.

We Kill Insects Every Time We Walk Outside

This is a common defense for eradicating “pests.” If you have a garden, as many vegans do, you are displacing, if not crushing and killing countless bugs every time you plant a new batch of vegetables or fruit.

Killing bugs by accident is near impossible to avoid if you’re living in the real world.

Vegans Fly Airplanes (Birds)

Eisel Mazard aka a-bas-le-ciel, is a very popular vegan Youtuber and leading thinker in the vegan community. He made a video addressing the issue of vegans killing insects.

Mazard astutely points out that vegans fly airplanes which is an activity that has long been known to require the killing of birds at the airport in order to prevent foreign object damage (FOD).3

Birds have a tendency to get lodged into airplane intakes which can potentially lead to an aircraft having to land early and even crash in some cases.

According to the Telegraph, when a bird flies or gets sucked into a plane engine, the animal usually disintegrates. If larger birds get sucked into an aircraft, it can cause extensive damage to the engine. 

If really large birds or a pack of multiple birds hit a plane or get sucked into an aircraft engine, the event can cause serious accidents.4

In fact, the famous landing on the Hudson by pilot Chesley Sullenberger or “Sully” was, in fact, caused by a flock of large birds hitting the aircraft head-on obstructing the windshield.5

For this reason, there are measures in place to control the threat posed by birds to aircraft. Tactics like frightening and repellents can be used, but lethal methods are also common.

Shooting birds has long been used as a highly selective form of hazard control in certain situations. The practice is legal and requires federal, state, and municipal permits.6

Shooting is used to reduce safety hazards caused by birds that routinely fly over airport runways. The practice isn’t thought to be effective when it comes to controlling large numbers of birds, but it is a common practice in certain areas.

Anyway, one could argue that vegans and other cruelty-conscious folks routinely take part in activities that cause death to animals, and that there’s very little difference in doing the animal control directly versus taking part in an activity that necessitates it.

Vegans Eat At Restaurants (Insects and Rats)

You know that favorite vegan restaurant of yours where you get those deep-fried Oreos and super realistic veggie burgers? They probably have to resort to killing “pests.”

If a health inspector comes around for a routine trip and notices rats and roaches all over the place, you can kiss that food establishment goodbye.

It’s not that restaurant owners want to kill the little critters. If they went through the trouble to open a vegan restaurant, then it’s likely that they care about the wellbeing of roaches, spiders, and rats every bit as much as we the consumers do.

This issue has posed ethical dilemmas for vegan restaurant owners for some time now. They need to keep animals and insects out of kitchens but, at the same time, want to avoid having to resort to extermination.

Again, they probably have good hearts and try to avoid killing animals when possible. They also have the extra incentive to avoid eradication for PR reasons. If word got out that they hire conventional exterminators, it may hurt their reputation in the vegan community.

In fact, the AP put out an article in recent times about this very issue.7

All this to say that even people who are most committed to the cause (enough so to open a vegan restaurant) and for whom veganism is a large part of their identity, still resort to killing “pests” when necessary. And this is despite the extra incentives they have to be cruelty-free in the public eye, still. Yet, they still often resort to lethal measures.

“Pest” Control Is a Reality

In the same video mentioned above, Mazard argues that killing cockroaches is not ethically neutral, or okay, but it’s a part of reality. I’d post the video here for you to watch, but don’t want to slow down the page. You can check it out here in the video titled Vegans Kill Cockroaches (Vivisection, Agriculture & Activism).3

He claims that the vast majority of vegans who live in hot climates do, in fact, kill cockroaches. This is despite the fact that cockroaches are not all characteristically ugly and repulsive.

Here in the US, the common cockroach is pretty disgusting to most people, but there are cockroaches around the world that rival the appearance of the butterfly. But, people—including vegans—still kill them in droves because they’re invasive and find their way into living and working spaces.

He wasn’t advocating that you kill insects, but simply acknowledging that it’s part of the world we live in. We do the best we can and use other methods when possible, but there are many situations in life where eradication is the only choice.

I’m not advocating that you kill cockroaches or other insects, I’m just giving you the facts—namely, that many vegans do kill insects. I don’t know that there’s any data on this, but you can rest assured that a good portion of the vegan community kills cockroaches and other insects under certain circumstances.

I personally resort to other measures. Then again, I’ve yet to have any major infestation of insects, and I don’t own a restaurant or any establishment where I’d be overwhelmingly tempted to hire exterminators.

Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. Just know that killing bugs and rodents for animal control purposes doesn’t render you a non-vegan by most standards.

Overview of Humane Methods of “Pest” Control

Catch and Release

If you don’t have a huge problem with insects, and only encounter the occasional roach, then the catch and release method may be the best option for you.

The method also works for rats and insects, but also squirrels, possums, and other larger mammals. There are various contraptions on the market that allow you to capture small mammals to release them in the wild. We’ll get into the specifics a bit later on.

As for insects, it can be as easy as using an inverted jar to trap the little critter and release it outside.

If you have a huge infestation of insects, then your problem may be beyond the scope of the catch and release method.

Let Them Stay

People often ask what to do about certain animals and insects they encounter outdoors. Sometimes, the answer is to simply let them be. Some animals you definitely don’t want in your yard. For example, if you have a garden, ground squirrels and other animals can wreak havoc.

But, if you encounter a snake—assuming it’s not poisonous—it can be a good idea to just leave it alone. Snakes, as well as, certain insects like spiders and praying mantises actually help you control your “pest” problem. So, some so-called “pests” are actually allies.

Keep the Kitchen Clean

Nothing attracts insects and rats like a kitchen counter or floor full of crumbs. If you don’t regularly clean the areas of your home exposed to food, then you’re just asking for an infestation.

Clean up crumbs by sweeping the floor and wiping the counters. Wash dishes immediately after using them, and store food in containers (a bit more on that below).

Take out the garbage regularly. After all, what’s the use in cleaning food from the counter if it accumulates and sits for periods of time in the garbage can.

Put Up Barriers

You can help prevent mice and insects from entering your home, to begin with, by plugging up their point of entry. Fill the holes, cracks, nooks, and crannies with caulk or glue.

The mouse holes may not be as obvious as they are in the cartoons, but if you look carefully, you’ll probably find a few places where mice could get through.

Don’t overlook the really small holes either. I’ve seen mice squeeze through openings in walls that you’d think insects would have a hard time getting through.

Which brings us to bugs. Roaches can climb walls so making sure all holes are sealed off is a good idea, whether they’re close to the ground or not.

Store Food In Concealed Containers

Keep your flours sealed. There are a number of insects that are drawn to starch sources like cereals, flours, and pasta.

The most common bugs that infest flour and grain products include bugs with names like:8,9

  • The cigarette beetle
  • The flour beetle
  • Merchant grain beetle
  • Saw-toothed grain beetle
  • Maize weevil
  • Rice weevil
  • The confused flour beetle (my personal favorite)

These types of bugs are very common in warehouses, silos, and grocery stores, but are known to infest homes.10,11

In the home, all foodstuffs found to be infested should be discarded, but purchasing the food product again and storing it in a sealed container should be enough to prevent the food product from being infested again.12

Odor Deterrents: Phytochemicals for “Pest” Control

Skunks aren’t the only animals clever enough to use undesirable smells to ward off other animals. Humans have long made use of various substances that have been proven to keep unwanted “pests” away.

Luckily, what smells terrible to one organism can smell great to another. There are tons of very effective natural substances that humans find aromatic, but certain critters absolutely detest.

If you’ve read any of my health-related articles, you know I’m a big fan of phytonutrients. These are the “non-nutritive” compounds in fruits, veggies, and other plant foods that are not needed to sustain life (like micronutrients) but seem to confer benefits for health and longevity.

What does this have to do with “pest” control? Well, if you read the article on anti-aging, you know that plants have certain chemical compounds that likely evolved to deter predators.

Many of the compounds are thought to invoke mild stress response in humans which may account for their fasting-like effects in promoting longevity (calorie restriction is a well-studied mechanism in which mild stress is thought to interact with sirtuin enzyme pathways potentially extending life span).

Anyway, while phytochemicals are useful for humans, insects and other animals find them much less appealing.

Some are insecticidal, but others keep insects away by producing certain compounds with odors that “pests” find repulsive. We’re, of course, interested in the latter.

Different substances work for different insects, so we’ll get into the specifics for each common insect.

Methods Per Insect


There are a number of home remedies for preventing ant infestations. I wasn’t able to find any studies to back up their efficacy, but several authoritative sources have promoted the use of certain substances as effective in controlling ants.

  • Cream of tartar. In their article What about insects and other “pests”?, PETA suggests sprinkling cream of tartar in areas where ants are infested.2 I haven’t tried it, but apparently, ants are repulsed by the stuff and won’t cross a line of cream of tartar. The substance is cheap and easy to find so it’s definitely worth a try.
  • White vinegar. Home Depot suggests using white vinegar.13

Try wiping down an infested counter with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.

  • Spices. Spices like cinnamon, mint, and red pepper are loaded with phytochemicals that ants tend to stay away from.14 Sprinkle the substances in areas where you’ve found heavy ant activity, specifically around windows and doorways. Home Depot suggests that coffee grounds can be effective in driving ants out of infested areas, and say they seem to be especially effective in transition areas like patios, porches, and garages.13
  • Cucumber and citrus fruit. Compounds found in cucumber and citrus fruits are thought to be effective in keeping ants away. Citrus and cucumber peels contain certain chemicals that are similar to those used in ant repellents. Home Depot suggests placing the skins of cucumber, lemons, and oranges near areas where you’ve found ant activity.13


The traditional way to deal with mosquitos is to use a repellent. Most people use generic mosquito repellents on the market. They are 100% vegan to my knowledge and aren’t insecticidal, so they may be a good option.

For those who want natural remedies, there are a few essential oils that have been shown to be effective in keeping mosquitos away.

  • Clove oil. Clove is an excellent mosquito deterrent. One study found 100% essential clove oil applied topically to provide 100% protection from certain species of mosquito for over 200 minutes.15
  • Lemon eucalyptus.  One study found 96.88% protection from mosquitos for 4 hours.16
  • Lemongrass oil. One study found the substance to provide 74% protection against mosquitos for 2.5 hours.17
  • Rose geranium oil. This is an alcohol plant extract that’s applied topically. It’s been shown to provide 63.3% protection against certain species of mosquitos for 3 hours.18
  • Neem tree oil. One study found 2% neem oil (applied topically) to provide 56.75% protection against mosquitos for 4 hours.16
  • Soybean oil. This is marketed as a vegetable oil in the US, so it’s an easily accessible, cheap alternative to essential oils. One study found 2% soya bean oil to provide 100% protection against certain types of mosquitos for 95 minutes.19
  • Kaffir lime leaf oil. Kaffir lime leaf 100% essential oil combined with 5% vanillin  applied topically was found to provide 100% protection from certain mosquitos for up to 8 hours.20
  • Turmeric Curcuma. This is a common spice you can find online and in certain upscale grocery stores. A 100% essential oil (turmeric curcumin) combined with 5% vanillin and applied topically was found to provide 100% protection from mosquitos for up to 8 hours.20

If you use any essential oils to repel mosquitos, just follow the manufacturer’s instructions for topical use. Many people mix the oils with Vaseline or skin lotion.

What About B Complex Vitamins?

You’ll often hear in the media that vitamin B makes a good systemic repellent against mosquitoes.

The results of a few published studies suggested otherwise, so Ives AR, et al used larger sample sizes to test whether vitamin B ingestion via supplements under various regimens had any effect on the attractiveness of volatile skin components to mosquitos.

The authors concluded that, while there was substantial individual variation in attractiveness, vitamin B supplementation conferred no protection against mosquitos overall.21


The common clothes moth started out in Eurasia but has since been exported to other countries and regions. Pretty much everyone has had to deal with the little critters at one point or another. I’ve personally only ever had them affect garments left in the attic or closets for very long periods of time.

The larvae of clothes moths feed on carpets and fabrics, particularly materials that are soiled or stored for long periods of time.

Adult female moths lay eggs in natural fibers like silk, wool, and fur, as well as linen and cotton blends.

As the larvae develop, they chew into the fabric while spinning protective webbing, creating small holes and spreading excrement all over the material.

Damage is usually most notable in concealed locations (near folds, under collars, etc.) and near the seams of clothing. Holes in the crevices of upholstery and near the edges of carpets are also common.22

Thankfully there are a few methods of dealing with moths that don’t involve extermination.

Airtight Containers

If you’re going to store clothes for any length of time, it’s a good idea to keep them in airtight containers. Some folks have found the vacuum sealers to be useful here.

Getting Rid of Larvae

Vegans as a group are not known to be characteristically pro-life, so I’d imagine some vegans who want to avoid killing animals and insects are okay with killing larvae.

Heating, freezing, and frequent laundering of clothes are common methods used to kill larvae to prevent them from hatching and eating clothes.

So, if you’re okay with it, this method is a cheap and easy way to control moths.

Mothballs are one option. They contain volatile insect repellents like 1,4-Dichlorobenzene that kill larvae but merely deter adults.22

If you want to avoid killing larvae, a more humane option is to use cedar chips. They smell great and are thought to deter adult flies—though I didn’t find any studies to support this claim.

The essential oil, like the compounds in mothballs, is larvicidal, but if you just use cedar chips, then you should be good to go.23



A number of essential oils have been found to be effective anti-cockroach agents. But, essential oils have been shown to be effective against cockroaches by actually killing them.24

That was surprising to me. So, a cockroach can survive a nuclear blast, but get taken out by Rosemary oil. It’s a strange world we live in.

One common method you’ll find online is to use bay leaves. But, I couldn’t find any studies to back this up. And according to Western Exterminator, the scent produced by bay leaves isn’t nearly powerful enough keep cockroaches away.25

Most of the chemical roach repellents are toxic to roaches and other insects, so they’re unadvised for cruelty-free “pest” control.

However, there are a number products on the market that work using electromagnetic and ultrasonic wave technology, that are designed to drive away all the “pests” (not just cockroaches) away from your home.

The Brison Ultrasonic Pest Repeller is advertised as an easy and humane way to reject cockroaches and other common “pests.” It even works against rodents. You can check out current prices here.

Deep Cleaning

It turns out that one of the best ways to control cockroaches is to make your home as clean as possible. Cockroaches are drawn to disgusting, pungent smells, so make sure you take the trash out often.

Using a mop and bucket is the best way to keep them off of your floors.25

Also, roaches eat fingernails and hair. A whisker left in your sink is a nice protein-packed meal for a cockroach, so make sure you don’t have any hair laying around in your bathroom.

So, when it comes to keeping cockroaches away: clean, clean, and clean some more.

Putting up barriers can be useful too. Cockroaches have a tendency to crawl up and through drains. Keeping the drains to your sinks and showers when not in use can be effective at keeping cockroaches from entering your home.

What About Traps?

There are a few traps on the market designed for roaches. Some, such as the Roach Motel, work by using an adhesive, which is very inhumane. There area few reusable, humane traps on the market, but none seem to work very well, so I won’t be recommending any here.


Unlike cockroaches, you’re unlikely to have a real spider infestation. Again, if they’re outside, it’s a good idea to just let them be—unless they’re poisonous! They actually help you control the insect population of your property.

Since they’re not as common in homes, the best measure here is the catch and release method. Just use an inverted jar to snare them, and then let them outside where they can help control your other “pests.”

Another option is to use the RESCUE Non-Toxic Spider Trap. This one I have not used personally, but I’ve seen them suggested in various forums online.

It may not be very effective for really small spiders but it is good at catching a variety of common spiders like the black widow spider, the brown recluse spider, the hobo spider, and the jumping and wolf spiders.

It has four openings where spiders enter and move to the interior of the trap which allows many more to be caught.

Humane Control of Rodents and Other Mammals

Humane rodent control focuses on the use of repellents and various catch and release methods.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made available several guidelines for natural rodent control including methods for safe trapping practices in residential areas.26,27

Some of the EPA methods are suitable for vegans and other animal lovers because they involve catching animals for subsequent release into the wild—i.e. catching animals in ways that prevent harms.


Mouse-B-Gone aka Mouse-No-More (A Safe Chemical Mouse Deterrent)

This is a popular product for folks who have mice infestations. It’s a product designed to deter mice without the use of harmful chemicals. It’s marketed to folks who want to use a substance that won’t pose harm to their children, pets, etc.

In designing a substance that is safe for children and pets, they either inadvertently or purposefully, designed a product that is safe for the mice as well. This is attractive to the general public (not just animal lovers) because most folks don’t want to have to dispose of dead animals.

Unlike bait that’s used with most methods of rodent control, this substance repels the mice instead of attracting them.

Anyway, because it’s safe for mice, it’s a great option for vegans and animal lovers in general.

You can check out the current prices here.

Brison Ultrasonic “Pest” Repeller (All Mammals)

This is the same product mentioned above for roach control.

Electronic “pest” control is a fairly new means of controlling “pest” and is 100% natural and safe for all animals.

These devices emit ultrasonic waves that most rodents and certain insects find unpleasant.

The upside to these devices is that they don’t make use of any harmful chemicals. The downside is that because they’re not regulated under the US Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the EPA requires much less efficacy testing compared to chemical pesticides.28

Studies on their efficacy have yielded mixed results, but a lot of folks have found the products useful.

One study in the Philippines found native rats to display significant avoidance behavior in three test chambers containing food and an ultrasonic device—specifically, the 20-kHz units showed the most effectiveness.29

A reduced-intensity trial (30-dB) found no changes in rat activity. The authors found the efficacy of the devices to be highly dependent on ultrasonic frequency, intensity, and pre-existing rodent-infestation conditions.29

You check for current prices here.

In the end, they’re fairly cheap products, so it’s a very low-risk investment.

What About My Pets?

Pets can pick up high-frequency sounds, so it is possible that a dog, for example, will detect the device. However, just because dogs pick up on the frequencies, doesn’t mean they will be bothered by it.

A lot of people with dogs use these products with no problem whatsoever. But dogs can hear much higher frequencies than humans, so this is something to keep in mind.

Look for signs like:30

  • Head tilting
  • Running to the area where the sound is coming from
  • Backing away from the sound
  • Barking
  • Whining

Humane Animal Traps

Humane physical “pest” control involves trapping animals in a way that doesn’t cause harm.

If you want to use a trap humanely, you’ll need to find one with a door-closing mechanism of some sort. The key to using these without causing harm is to empty it out regularly so that the animals don’t have to go very long without water.

It wouldn’t hurt to add a small pail of water inside the trap if there’s room.

Smaller Mammals (Mice)

Most generic traps designed for catch and release are a bit too large for mice. They just don’t weigh enough to trigger the mechanism.

However, there are several on the market designed for mice and other small rodents.

The Blinc CapSure System

The Blinc CaptSure Original Humane Rodent Trap is one option.

It’s an oblong cylindrical device in the shape of a small mailbox. The design includes air holes so that the mice don’t die from lack of air.

It’s marketed as a “No Kill Mouse Trap”, so it’s great for vegans and other animal lovers.

The Ratinator

If you have a large infestation of rats, you may want to go with something a bit larger. For that, there’s a good product called the Rugged Ranch Ratinator. This product is a multi-catch trap that’s able to catch swarms of rats in a matter of hours.

You can check out the current price for this product here.

It’s a little more of an investment compared to the No Kill Mouse Trap, but it’s much more effective in dealing with larger infestations.

Medium Sized Mammals (Squirrels)

This category is near and dear to my heart. Of all the “pests” out there, I’ve had the most experience with these cute little furr balls.

Every time the weather starts to get cool, they take up home in the attic. They can cause lots of damage, as they tend to grind their teeth on wood to keep them sharp. Not only does it damage your home, but the noise can keep you up for hours.

Most folks resort to poison, which is an extremely inhumane way of dealing with the problem. Squirrel poison leads to what must be a very excruciating death, as many squirrels are found dead outside while bleeding from the anus.

Personally, I just put up with the problem for a long time until I found a product by Rugged Range called the Squirrelinator—my favorite name for a product ever.

This product is AMAZING and is well worth the investment. You can check out current prices for the Squirrelinator here.

These devices are rather large and provide a lot of room. Because of the size of the device, squirrels are able to move to the interior of the trap allowing for more and more to enter. It’s not uncommon to find the trap loaded up with several squirrels at a time.

Larger Mammals

There are several generic traps that are great for catching larger mammals in a humane way. These types of traps are great for gardens, as they tend to be on the larger side and are designed to catch a range of animals like possums, raccoons, and ground squirrels.

A great trap is the Havahart 1079 Large 1-Door Humane Animal Trap. It measures about 31.98 in x 10.6 in x 12.14 in and comes with a spring-loaded metal door.

It’s designed to catch raccoons, groundhogs, and opossums. The downside is that it can also catch cats. So, if you have a pet cat, you’ll need to make sure it stays indoors.

Keeping cats indoors is a humane practice anyway, as they tend to kill rodents like squirrels, chipmunks, and mice.


That pretty much sums it up for now. You’ll notice that I didn’t include certain insects like bedbugs and termites. That’s because, as of now, I’ve yet to find any effective measures to deal with them humanely.

These insects can cause a lot of harm, so I’ll continue to research the subject and will update the guide over time.

So, stay tuned for that.

Thanks for reading.


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