Why am I vegan? (explained by other people)

My transition into a vegan lifestyle was slow and then all at once. It wasn’t long ago that I was telling people that I planned to be vegan ‘one day’ but right now I was just making little changes. That one day happened one day recently…

Multiple things happened at once and my eyes were opened. I exposed myself to the disturbing and dangerous way our society treats animals and the incredibly destructive impact this has on the planet. I made the necessary changes to my diet and am now eating far more delicious, fulfilling, nutritious and nourishing food. I am also constantly thinking about and researching where other things in my life come from so as to make a difference wherever possible, to not exploit and harm animals through my lifestyle and to reduce my negative impact on the planet.

I love finding quotes to inspire me and that resonate with me in all aspects of my life and so I’d thought I’d share some that I think best explain why I am vegan…

|| For Animals ||

“I was breastfeeding and I just remember having this moment, because I did drink milk during my pregnancy and I had this moment where I realised that cows don’t just produce milk all of the time. No, lactating cows produce milk for their young and I’d never thought about it until I was breastfeeding. Ah I just got goosebumps, seriously because the thought of someone taking my daughter’s milk away from her breaks my heart, like that’s my biggest fear. As a mother having that taken from your child and that’s exactly what I was doing to calves.” – Jinti Fell

“The main defense of carnism is denial, which is expressed largely through invisibility. The ideology itself is invisible and so are its victims. For instance, 1.2 billion farmed animals are slaughtered globally every week. So in one week more farmed animals are killed than the total number of people killed in all wars throughout history. But how many of these animals have you seen? Where are they? Approximately 98 percent of the meat, eggs and dairy we eat comes from animals who were raised in factory farms. Windowless sheds in remote locations that are virtually impossible to obtain access to. Yet, although these animals are treated as commodities, they are in fact sentient, intelligent individuals with lives that matter to them.” – Melanie Joy

“I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat. It is only some carnivorous animals that have to subsist on flesh. Killing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventures, and for hides and furs is a phenomenon which is at once disgusting and distressing. There is no justification in indulging in such acts of brutality . . . Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not to die, so do other creatures.” – The Dalai Lama

|| For People ||

“I think that the oppression of animals is the gateway drug to oppressing humans because when a child is first told that the dog on his sofa is to be loved and cherished whereas the pig on his plate is to be abused, killed, dismembered, and eaten for food, that’s the first time that we instill the notion in a child’s mind that it is okay to discriminate between two living beings that basically look and seem alike, which is the basis of all forms of oppression, that you’re basically telling one living being that he can live and another that he must die.” – Alex Hershaft

“Veganism has given me a higher level of awareness and spirituality […] If you’re violent to yourself by putting things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that onto someone else. […] There is a connection between how you live and how you treat others. It starts with the individual.” – Dexter Scott King

“It has been proven that there is enough food on earth to feed every last man, woman, and child. Yet, if this is the case, why do people around the world continue to starve? The answer to that question lies in large part with the production of animal-based foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Even though there are enough plant-based foods grown to feed the entire human population, the majority of crops (including those grown in countries where people are starving) are fed to livestock for affluent nations, and since the amount of animal-based food produced by the farming industry is much less than the amount of plant food put into it, there is a “diminished return on the investment,” the food supply dwindles, and humans end up going hungry. […] Which of these two piles do you think would feed more people: the pile of meat that used to be [a cow’s] body, or the pile of food that went into creating and nourishing it? This is the stark equation that makes the animal farming industry so illogical and unsustainable.” – Michael Chatham

|| For my Conscience and Spirit ||

“Every day we engage in a behaviour that requires us to distort our thoughts, numb our feelings and act against our core values, and which enables a global atrocity that can make even the most stoic of us weep in sorrow. […] When I stopped eating animals I had a paradigm shift. In other words, I didn’t see different things, I saw the same things differently. Beef stew seemed no different than golden retriever stew. And everywhere I turned I saw people putting the bodies of dead animals into their mouth as though nothing at all were wrong. So I became very curious as to how rational caring people, like myself, could just stop thinking and feeling.” – Melanie Joy

Simon Amstell: “It’s difficult I think to think of yourself as an empathetic being if you are eating another being. We’re in a place still where people say ‘oh it’s delicious’. Whatever the thing that once was walking around and having it’s own inner life was, to say it’s just delicious, for that to be acceptable is a really strange thing isn’t it?! So if you have any kind of feeling like we should be doing less harm to others then that should include non-human animals. The only reason it wouldn’t include that is if you regard humans as the most important thing on the planet and every thing else being there to serve the human being.”

Russell Brand: “[…]What I think is interesting about what you’re saying about veganism now is that you’re saying that there’s a place that you reach in yourself spiritually where eating animals would become unacceptable to you along with other forms of cruelty, alongside other forms of ignorance.”

“Going plant-based is one of the best things you can do for your health and the wellness of animals everywhere, but you probably already knew that, right? You may already know that eating a plant-based diet is healthy, and that it’s better for the environment. Do you know some direct, specific benefits you may experience within the first week of eating a plant-based diet? [..] Eating in a way that promotes life naturally makes you happier. You’ll have a lighter outlook on life and just generally feel happier all the way around. This is a change many people don’t expect, yet one I hear the most about from everyone who takes on the challenge.” – Heather McClees

|| For my Health ||

“A vegetarian diet is associated with many health benefits because of its higher content of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and a fat content that is more unsaturated. Compared with other vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. Vegans tend to be thinner, have lower serum cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of heart disease.” – Winston J Craig

“Number one [of the three most surprising health benefits I’ve experienced] is potentially the most exciting to me because it’s just been the most beneficial I believe and that is increased life vitality. So I just have more energy, I’m more excited about life, I’m setting goals and actively working to trying to achieve them. I’m moving my body every single day, I have better mental clarity, I’m just more excited and more enthused and energized by life and I really do think that is directly related to changing my diet. I just think that now I’m no longer putting all this crap in, my body has more energy to experience life instead of using it’s time to just deal with all this junk.” – Jinti Fell

“You might even want to veer even closer to a plant-based diet to stave off [menstrual] pains. According to Gaither, “Some small studies have looked at implementing vegan or plant-based diets and have noted that those women employing these diet changes experienced decreased volume of menstrual flow and the pain that goes along with it. […] And when you’re avoiding animal fats, don’t forget about dairy. According to Parikh, “Dairy products contain arachadonic acid, which is a substance in your body that is converted into prostaglandins.” And as you know by now, prostaglandins are a big no-no if you don’t want pain during your period.” – Emily Monaco

|| For the Planet ||

“‘Agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide.’ […] The truth is, we’re not just destroying the forests in virtue of existing and taking up space for living, we’re destroying them due to specific, non-necessary habits found in the normalized Western diet and lifestyle. […] “A new report from FAO says livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.” As if animal agriculture’s affects on the planet’s forests wasn’t harsh enough, the secondary and tertiary effects of its degradation can be felt not just by our plant life, but in the air we breathe and the water we drink.[…] Since well-planned vegan lifestyles are regarded as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle […] we can say with some certainty that living without excessive reliance on animal agriculture is well within our grasp. Living without Earth’s life-sustaining forests, however, is much less possible.” – Ariel Garlow

Those are a few of the benefits I have discovered so far, thanks to a decision I am so happy to have made inspired by so many lovely people. A big thanks to all the people around the world spreading information and articulating it so much better than I could! Make sure to check out their articles and videos and share the love. Thanks so much for reading and have a beautiful day!

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Earth Hour and Thoughts on Climate Change

So, it was WWF’s Earth Hour this past weekend. In case you weren’t aware, this is a yearly event in which people turn off all their lights and stop using electricity for one hour, to share the love for our Earth. Here in the Home-ed Heads household we’ve been participating for only a couple of years, but I can unashamedly say it’s one of my favourite annual holidays (OK, it probably isn’t technically a holiday but it should be!). There’s something really relaxing for me about turning off all the lights and shutting out all the background noises, and just hanging out with the family, doing something simple.

During this year’s Earth Hour we all hung out in the dining room with some candles – though Dad and pteroturtle kept turning on their devices :/ – and everyone else played a board game while I did some reading (the game was only up to four players!). Of course we also played with the candle wax as per Earth Hour tradition (well, in our house anyway) and did some good old fashioned talking. The thing I most like about Earth Hour is the mysteriousness the house gets when suddenly it’s pitch black, and you have to stay together to share the candlelight. I just think the whole thing is a bunch of fun. 😀

Another thing that’s great about Earth Hour is that it does help me appreciate the electricity we take for granted and how amazing the natural world is. You may not know this about me but I happen to be a huge nature lover and am very interested in eco-friendliness. There are a couple of things relating to this I wanted to talk about in this blog post, but before we get into that I wanted to quickly mention some courses I’ve been taking on Future Learn. Both of them have finished now but they’re still available for people to take (I’m still only halfway through both of them!) and I’ve been really enjoying them.

The first is Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions run by the University of Exeter. This is my personal favourite of the two and one of my favourite courses I’ve ever taken online. The course starts by jumping straight into exploring what ‘the greenhouse effect’ really means, and whether we should really call it ‘the blanket effect’ – fittingly demonstrated by the lead educator Tim Lenton spending the entire video wandering around a greenhouse wrapped in a blanket! Each week focusses on a different aspect of climate change, for example how our climate has changed in the past, or different ways we may be able to stop it.  My favourite week I’ve taken so far was probably week 4, in which it was discussed whether decreasing our use of fossil fuels is really the way to fight global warming, amongst other things. There’s also a handy round-up video each week where the lead educator answers some of the popular questions from that week in a very clear and friendly way. I will say that I’d recommend having some former knowledge of geography concepts and the like because the course often tries to explain complicated ideas in one ten minute-ish video, which can be overwhelming. Don’t let that put you off though – they do explain most things it just might take you a little longer to get it if you’re not already familiar with the basic terms and principles of this field.

The second course is Environmental Management: Social-ecological Systems run by the University of Leeds. I’m not as far through this course as the other one and so far I haven’t found it quite as compelling or fun, but I feel it covers a more unique subject and discusses things I’ve never thought about before. It focusses on human relationships with nature, what problems these can cause and how they differ between different cultures and time periods. The final week specifically talks about the impact on nature in the midst of human conflicts, which I think sounds very interesting and am looking forward to working through that part of the course.

So, what with Earth Hour happening and working through these courses online, I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change recently. That’s why today I thought I’d try to evaluate my thoughts about it all and bring my perspective to the table.

I don’t know when or why I started getting into climate change but I’ve had a lively interest in it for years and I think it is a fascinating subject and a pressing problem. Maybe it’s just down to fear – the predicated flooding in some places that will be caused by rising sea levels while others face severe drought, the species of animals that will be forever lost to extinction, the enhanced threat of skin cancer as the hole in the ozone layer grows; all these things are terrifying to think of.

But in some ways, I find climate change exciting. It’s not hard to imagine in the far future, somebody teaching in a classroom (or at home, of course), “And here is the early 2000s, when the world’s fossil fuels ran out and humans had to find other sources of energy.” Then of course there’s the possibility that in millions of years, fossil fuels will have reformed, and our ancestors will be using them and they’ll face this problem all over again. I think these are a good ways of putting the issue into perspective, which is something a lot of us forget to do when thinking about global warming. It’s not an apocalypse – the world won’t just explode if we get things wrong. It’s a process, and a continuous challenge. I don’t know how humankind is going to deal with these challenges, but it’s highly unlikely we’ll all die out.

So let’s talk about fossil fuels. They’re running out. It is predicted that the oil supplies will be used up within 50 years. We have 70 years left to use natural gas. Coal is predicted to be all gone in 250 years. Is this scary? In a way, of course it is – any major change is scary. But on the other hand, maybe it’s good. There is countless evidence that use of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (up there with deforestation), and so really, isn’t it good that we have a proper motivation to stop using these dirty, polluting substances?

There are definitely hope prospects – we do have alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, there are charities and organisations working to preserve animal species, and there is a chance the ozone layer could repair itself now that CFGs are no longer being used. Who knows, maybe having such a global, universal problem will help bring different cultures and governments together. Maybe we’ll have to inhabit other planets. Maybe it will encourage spectacular scientific advancements.

At the risk of sounding philosophical here, in my view, never has humankind faced a problem that is simultaneously so exciting and frightening, and I definitely think it is not something to be overlooked. Climate change will and is affecting every person on this planet, so let’s try to protect it while we can. Go Earth! 😀

How can owls turn their heads so far around?

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the blog. It was plumblepie’s 3rd birthday recently so we decided to go out for a birthday trip to an owl sanctuary. While we were there and watching the owls artybaker and I got talking and we both realised we had absolutely no clue as to how owls can turn their heads all the way around. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine a skeleton/muscle system that would allow them to do this. I knew I just had to research and I thought I would share what I found out with you guys.

First up, the biggest news of all. Owls cannot turn their heads 360 degrees. We spent quite a while at the owl sanctuary waiting for the owls to turn their heads all the way around and it turns out they can’t. Sorry owls, you were doing the best you could! They can however turn their heads 270 degrees, which is still mightily impressive.

Before I get all science-y on you, please remember that I am not a scientist and therefore cannot be certain if I am explaining this right. I will link some of the posts I was reading down below so you can go and read more about it when you finish up here.

Owls cannot move their eyes without moving their heads because, unlike humans, they don’t have eyeballs. Owls’ eyes are more like tubes.

So how can owls turn their heads so far?

For starters, owls have double the number of bones in their necks than humans – they have 14 versus our 7. An owl’s major arteries feed the brain through holes in the vertebrae (parts of the spine). The hollow cavaties are about 10 times wider than the artery travelling through. The extra space creates a set of air pockets (also known as air sacs) that cushion the artery allowing it to move when twisted.

So there you are. I’m sure there’s much more to it than this but that seems to be the main thing that allows owls to do something this amazing. I hope you learned something from this, if you disagree with anything I’ve said here or have anything to add then leave a comment below. Thanks for reading and have a great day,

sophofbread

References:
http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/02/04/twist-and-hoot-secret-of-owls-neck-rotation-revealed/
http://www.livescience.com/26771-how-owls-rotate-heads.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21279609
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/01/revealed-how-owls-turn-their-heads-all-the-way-around/

Minibeast Hotel

Hi there, this is artybaker. I’ve been wanting to do this post for months. It’s about my Minibeast Hotel, which is basically just a homemade haven for insects and creepy crawlies.

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I got the idea off the internet somewhere… can’t remember where. This is the outline plan thingy I made (although I did make this after I’d made the actual thing).

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The top layer is sheltered by a transparent plastic box – I was trying to make a mini greenhouse. I was planning to use a saw to cut out one of the sides of the box so that the bugs could fly/crawl in, but then I found a hole in the box and the plastic wasn’t exactly very strong so I used a metal rod thingy I found in the garden to knock out the side. The edges are a bit rigid, but apart from that, it worked great! (Plus it was really satisfying)

Inside I filled an old dog bowl with rain water because I wanted to satisfy as many bugs as possible – including ones that like water. And then next to that I put some sand, for a sort of mini beach feel! On top of the sand I placed an old coconut shell up-side down. It was just on a whim really. I thought they might want some dark shelter or something. . .

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Oh, and I put some large pebbles in front of that. There was no particular reason, I just wanted to supply the minibeasts with lots of different environments, then let them choose which they like best.

The next layer consists of five bits of pipe that I filled with different materials:

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From left to right: Conker shells, sawdust, grass, rocks, dry leaves.

I stuffed the third layer full of pieces of wood and sticks, in varying states of rotting. I figured woodlice would like that.

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And finally, in the bottom layer I put a plastic tray containing compost. The compost is a mixture of normal soil from the garden, compost you buy from the shop and food waste. I change the compost occasionally/regularly, putting new food waste and soil in there to decompose.

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My minibeast hotel has it’s own special place in our garden on the flowerbed. We placed an old doormat over the soil then I built the structure up with bricks and planks of wood. I painted the bricks for two reasons: 1 because it looked a bit dull without it. 2 because I thought the colours might possible attract some insects? Worth a shot.

Dougal with the minibeast hotel:

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Almost everything I used to make this was recycled, and I found almost all of it in our back garden. It’s a great way to recycle old things and help small animals. It’s also really easy (although can take a while) to make. I haven’t looked inside too thoroughly but so far I’ve found these creatures: woodlouse, millipede, slug, worm, ladybird (don’t what that wanted in there!), ant and a few other things I don’t know the names of. No signs of caterpillars of flies or anything, but it doesn’t matter. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Bird House (:>)

Hi there! This is artybaker and today I’ve got a post for you about a bird house I made.  To make my resolution for one post a week easier to stick to, I’ve told myself to do one post every Monday. So let’s get on with it! (Oh and if you’re wondering what that thing is beside the title, it’s meant to be a bird on it’s side).

The idea to make a bird house came to me a few months ago when I was reading a book about nature that mumlovesearlgrey had recommended to me. I can’t believe it’s actually taken me this long to get it finished, time flies when you’re putting off stuff! Dad has been helping me make it but we didn’t really do our research before starting and we missed out a few probably quite important steps… But we did sort of squeeze them in at the end.

I started with a long flat plank of wood and sawed it into 5 different sized pieces; the front had a hole in for the birds to enter. Then I sanded the edges and we (me and dad) screwed them all together into the shape of a bird house. Next I painted it with wood-protector-paint-thing and dad put a waterproof cover on the top for extra water protection. We then read that bird houses should have a hinged lid for autumn cleaning and to check which birds you have inside (if any!). We hadn’t done this so we un-screwed the base and made it a trap door. But don’t worry! It is secure so the birds won’t just fall out!  We also read that it should have draining holes in the bottom, in case water gets inside. So dad drilled some holes in it (I was too busy baking!). Here are some pictures…

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Dad scratched the inside to help the chicks climb out…

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We put it up above the shed door but we haven’t had any bird visitors yet. I decided not to put anything inside to keep the birds warm because I thought if they see it they might think that it’s already occupied, but I don’t know if they will or not. Here are some tips if you are planning to make a bird house:

  • Paint your bird house with waterproof paint, but leave the wood surrounding the hole bare, so that the birds aren’t harmed if they decide to peck around the hole to make it bigger.
  • Do not paint the inside of the box.
  • Drill drainage holes in the base.
  • Hinge the lid or base so that you can clean out the box every September.
  • Scratch the inside of the box below the hole so that the baby birds can climb out.
  • Do not disturb the box too much if it does become occupied, you might scare the birds away.
  • Put up the box at least 1 and a half metres from the ground; to help keep cats away.

Thanks for reading! My next post will be about baking, something chocolate-y I wonder……?