The vast quantity of insects in the world means that subtle changes in our views on the moral standing of insects might drastically change our priorities. Below is a number of possible positions on the moral importance of insect suffering.
1. Insects cannot feel pain.
2. Insects can feel pain but they cannot suffer like humans can suffer.
- How and to what extent do insects suffer?
- Is the existence of suffering morally relevant?
- Can many small pains stack up to rival a few large pains?
Most deontologists would answer no to the above question, however, and would have a legitimate basis for ignoring the mass suffering of insects in the wild even if she answered affirmatively to questions 1 and 3. In deontological views of ethics, suffering is not inherently bad and is of less importance than is fulfilling specific duties to moral laws.
We might want to set our thresholds many orders of magnitude apart so that the likelihood of pains falling just above or just below the threshold would be extremely unlikely. In this way thresholds might work as a useful heuristic for comparing large and small moral values. I don't see a coherent or useful way to formulate this, however.