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Plants and Animals 'Of The Home'

Rated: 2.44 / 5 | 1,236 listing views Plants and Animals 'Of The Home'

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  • Stuart Henderson
  • March 12, 2016 10:37:10 PM
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A Little About Us

An archaeologists blog on the history of plants and animals, climate change and all things green. Content ranges from short stories on plants and animals to the latest debates and theories on subjects new and old. The site is also home to multiple infographics that offer overviews of various subjects and debates.

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In Defence of ‘Picky’ Eaters

Don’t you hate picky eaters? Don’t you hate those people who won’t eat whatever is put in front of them? Whether it bean, broccoli, boiled or a handful of bark you should just be grateful you are eating. There was once a time where we Brits only got a loaf of bread a week, and...

Don’t you hate picky eaters? Don’t you hate those people who won’t eat whatever is put in front of them? Whether it bean, broccoli, boiled or a handful of bark you should just be grateful you are eating. There was once a time where we Brits only got a loaf of bread a week, and it wasn’t that long ago the British diet was limited to the seasonal, the dull and the minced. Be a good boy and eat.

We live in an amazing era of food where we can have almost anything we want and to resist eating meat, or gelatin, or dairy, or something ridiculous like that is to just be a nuisance. Being selective of food has never really been part of our culture. Let them eat cake!

I think an attitude has been passed down to many generations since the 40s and 50s which is simply to accept food as it comes, to not be a nuisance and to try everything.  I think this attitude has poisoned the minds of many British people, many of whom now refuse to question food and where it comes from and simply bask in amazement at the bounty that sits before them. Where did turkey and haggis flavored crisps from and how did they make them? Who cares!put it in the trolley and shut up, its only a pound a bag.

This mindset is very peculiar. It’s an attitude we don’t apply to any other aspect of life. In many cases the picky are simply reasonable people making amicable decisions on what they eat because that’s what they do in other aspects of their life (although yes I know a few people who may be deserving of the title ‘picky’ by refusing to eat, say, all sauces, I know people like this).

Now I should clarify. I understand most people can’t afford to be picky. In fact the foods that are essentially forced on the lower-income families is atrocious and causes horrible health problems and has done for hundreds of years. However, for people who can afford to be picky, should be picky.

But anyway, I am picky about the software I download as to not destroy my computer. As are many other people I assume. We are a culture of ‘picky’ internet users, but being picky as to what goes into our bodies seems a bridge too far for many.

Okay sometimes we do… I guess. I mean the last few years everyone seems to have gone crazy about free range eggs. Which is good! But, why just this?

Okay I know I sound like a tree-hugging
prepubescent teen on the verge of joining a colony but stay with me. We should be picky about food. We, as consumers, are the main driving market force and if we continue to want cheap fatty meat then the markets response will be to factory farm a genocide on a huge scale, we have caused this.

Or let’s take another example. Halal meat is increasingly popular and becominghalal.fw.png
increasingly mainstream. As a result, the Jewish and Muslim communities of Britain are exempt from stunning animals before they are killed. Halal meat is a religious killing, one which sees animals killed in great agony and distress. It is a form of medieval barbarism that for some reason continues today. Maybe we could be picky about this?

According to the 2016 World Giving Index, Britain is in the top 10 for the most charitable countries on the planet. We are a caring and well-intentioned group. We encourage freedom, and yet eat foods from Spain that support what is a essentially a huge slave trade. We don’t want to destroy the planet, and yet we support a meat industry that causes irreparable damage to the world. We love our countryside, but eat Peruvian Asparagus, which is destroying huge areas of the South American countryside. We love animals and yet see millions murdered for crisp flavorings and pizza toppings. The list is endless. If only we concentrated more on the causes rather than giving money to fix many of the problems we caused in the first place, we might actually achieve great things.

This lack of ‘pickyness’ has seen the rise of huge supermarkets pumping food full of crap, keeping prices low and creating a culture which has resulted in Britain becoming one of the fattest, most asthmatic nations in Europe. While at the same time importing from across the globe whatever tickles our fancy and making a now ‘independent Britain’ reliant on the rest of the world for its fatty foods.

But there is goods news! Change is fairly easy. Now I know to research all food before you purchase it is completely unreasonable, but even basing food purchases on where the food was made (which is on the packaging in most cases), basing preference on quality over price and finally, by purchasing certain foods in moderation we can making huge changes. Also, I can understand eating meat, but eating more than double the worldwide average is completely unreasonable, we don’t need it on crisps (Walkers), we don’t need it on pizza, or in curry, or on chips, or with pasta, the world has a bounty of wonderful foods.

Oh and stop eating Halal. I know in some cases it just as bad the normal methods of slaughter, but in many cases it simply isn’t and the idea of blessing the food just comes across as:

References:

World Giving Index (2016) Global view of giving trends | CAF. [online] Cafonline.org. Available at: https://www.cafonline.org/about-us/publications/2016-publications/caf-world-giving-index-2016 [Accessed 13 Jan. 2017].


8 New Year’s Resolution Ideas

This is just a short post on some possible ideas for New Year’s resolutions, all surrounding what we can to for plants and animals. This is something I did a few years ago and had no intention of one day becoming vegetarian, I just wanted to reduce eating meat in areas that didn’t need it....

This is just a short post on some possible ideas for New Year’s resolutions, all surrounding what we can to for plants and animals.

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This is something I did a few years ago and had no intention of one day becoming vegetarian, I just wanted to reduce eating meat in areas that didn’t need it. I still think eating meat in moderation could create a market of sustainable and ethically produced food. But the current efforts to slice, grate and squeeze meat into every food that isn’t chocolate isn’t going to do this any time soon. Eating meat in moderation would be a significant contribution to the common good.

Eating as much meat as we do (mostly talking about the U.S. and Western Europe), is simply not sustainable.

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It seems strange to think of helping the environment by reducing the amount of meat in your diet but it would actually make a huge change. Forget shorter showers, turning lights off when you leave rooms and turning the TV to standby, cut down in meat! (Okay… don’t forget all the other stuff, I’m being dramatic, try them all together)

Essentially, the meat market requires a lot of land, a lot of transport and machinery and is incredibly inefficient in getting the calories we need. This is because you obviously need to feed an animal a lot more calories than the number of calories you get out.

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The meat industry increases land usage, transport and habitat destruction, it increases the number of animal extinctions and the use of fossil fuels. It increases methane in the atmosphere (from the cattle industry) as well as the use of fertilizers. The meat industry also uses an incredibly amount of water, something not done in arable farming, and all of these contribute to damaging the planet.

To see an overview of these issues see the full infographic here: LINK

This resolution also has the added benefit of reducing the number of animals slaughtered each year, which is always good!

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Image result for meat free monday

Meat Free Monday is a campaign of increasing popularity and I suggest for people who really are carnivores at heart to give it a go (link here).

Although, I do have some doubts about this campaign, particularly given that it seems a lot of people who do it will then just eat more meat later in the week.

But! It will hopefully get people cooking vegetarian foods and show people how easy and tasty meatless food is, as well as how normal is it! The constant addition of meat to every curry, sauce and sandwich is not normal or necessary, at least not in most countries.

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This is obviously the far more extreme option, but obviously one of the most effective. Definitely worth a go!

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I have to admit I was one of the people who mocked veganism and thought it was stupid… turns out I was wrong! Mostly…

Many of the same issues from point one are here, with the increased use of animals in the food industry means an increase in CO2 emissions.

Also! Thousands of animals are killed every year in this industry, either because they are male and don’t produce the necessary product or because they stop producing the product prematurely. This creates the production of genocidal camps for animals in which they are forced to produce copious amounts of eggs, or gallons of milk or what-not, or they will be killed. And I know this because, like most people, I have see the movie Chicken Run.

Image result for chicken run

The horror.

But ultimately this market causes greater CO2 emissions, the killing of animals, habitat destruction and a reduction in biodiversity and finally, causes the animals to change genetically, until there is almost nothing “natural” about them and they are just machines of production.

Also! Maybe worth trying Veganuary this January.

But! Also worth mentioning importing soya and almonds hundreds of miles from often quite backward markets isn’t great… still not sure where I stand with veganism…

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This looks amazing. The RSPCA encourage fostering animals from shelters to improve the lives of the animals but also to improve their likelihood of being adopted by getting them ready for a new home. You can improve their social skills with humans and be sure they are capable to living in this, presumably, new environment. But also get to spend time with animals which is always good!

Visit the RSCPA page on this subject here: LINK

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This is an easy one, but can often be a very helpful one. A yearly visit to the vet for your animal can greatly increase their health, catching issues early and ensuring they are living healthy lives.

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I have a recent post on all the benefits of eating seasonally (see here), so to name a few:

  • Reduce emissions
  • Reduce the price of food
  • Improve local economies
  • Make your country more self-sufficient
  • In some cases improve the welfare of people across the world

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Not the sexiest of New Year’s resolutions but after a year of living in Edinburgh and seeing the city’s great attempts at sustainability I feel bad for how I was recycling before. With a food waste bin, a recycling bin and garden waste bin, very little is actually left for the smaller landfill bin.

I feel I have reduced my amount of landfill waste by at least half, and if I move again I will hopefully continue like this. Might have to buy a compost bin…

References:

Fairlie, S. (2010). Meat. 1st ed. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub.

Meat Free Monday (2016). Home – Meat Free Monday. [online] Meat Free Monday. Available at: http://www.meatfreemondays.com/ [Accessed 29 Dec. 2016].

RSCPA (2016). [online] Available at: https://www.rspca.org.uk/home [Accessed 29 Dec. 2016].

 


Animal Cloning: An Infographic

Animal Cloning (Flat).png


Dolly the Sheep: A Success Story?

I was recently walking around the National Museum of Scotland and came across the lamb rotisserie  counter that is the Dolly the Sheep display and very quickly I realized how little I knew about Dolly. My view of this experiment prior to my visit was that of Dolly being an almost Frankenstein’s Monster creature, created sick...

I was recently walking around the National Museum of Scotland and came across the lamb rotisserie  counter that is the Dolly the Sheep display and very quickly I realized how little I knew about Dolly. My view of this experiment prior to my visit was that of Dolly being an almost Frankenstein’s Monster creature, created sick and ill and never meant for this world. However the story of Dolly seems to be far more complicated than that of any fiction.

Click to view slideshow.

For those of you who may have missed that we magically cloned an animal, here is a short introduction.

Dolly was a female sheep born in 1996 through a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. They (the people in white lab coats) then took somatic cells from a sheep and starved these cells of nutrients. While also taking some reproductive cells, that-is egg cells, from a different sheep. They removed the genetic material from the egg and after some magical electrical zapping they force the membrane of the somatic cell to break open and its information to pass into the now ’empty’ egg. More magical zapping follows to ensure this cell would later form into an embryo and finally this stew of scientific wizardry is ready for the oven.

And ding! Dolly was born.

Now Dolly was the first ever clone  created from an adult cell, and one of the few sheep I know with three mothers. She was born without any complications and even went on to produce six lambs. At first it seemed she was one of the greatest scientific achievements of our age. Unfortunately however, Dolly developed a severe case of arthritis and lung disease at a very young age and passed away at the age of six. Maybe then she wasn’t so healthy?

You can see where in my mind the fact and fiction meld. She was a clone and to die so young, perhaps these were linked?

However the lung cancer she had (Jaagsiekte) was fairly common and there appears to be no direct link between this disease and the fact she was a clone. Although this cancer is typically found in older sheep. So what went wrong?

A paper released in 1999 in the journal Nature suggests one answer. It appears some cloned animals, which may include Dolly, have shorter telomeres. Obviously. Those darn telomeres.

Telomeres are the ends of each strand of DNA  and are integral to how cells age. Telomeres shorten over an animals lifespan, so the shorter the telomere the older the animal, at least this is the case for non-cloned animals. It appears then that since Dolly’s parent, from whom she got her genetic material, was six when the sample was taken, then Dolly may have been genetically six when she was born. Obviously this means Dolly was more susceptible to diseases, such as as Jaagsiekte, that effect older sheep.

A Family of Clones

However new research, again in Nature, suggests this  theory may be false and that instead cloned animals age at the normal ageing rate. How do we know this? Dolly’s family of little clones of course.

Since Dolly passed away four sheep have been cloned from the same mammary gland cells used to clone Dolly, their names; Debbie, Denise, Dianna and Daisy. As well as nine more being cloned from foetal skin cells.

So how have these sheep grown up? Just fine it seems. They appeared to be just as healthy as sheep that were not cloned. They do not suffer from any of the issues Dolly had and so it appears Dolly was the victim of bad luck and an odd lifestyle. The disease being bad luck and her osteoarthritis being the result of an indoor lifestyle.

A Success?

Yes.

The scientists successfully cloned a typically healthy sheep. Since this event there have been many new attempts to clone other animals such as horses, pigs and bulls.

Although far from perfect, cloning perhaps offers a last resort solution to saving an excessive number of animals on the brink of extinction. And with nuclear somatic transfer no longer a commonly used method and cloning becoming a far safer and easier practice, who knows what they could clone next?

References:

Burgstaller, J., Schinogl, P., Dinnyes, A., Müller, M. and Steinborn, R. (2007). Mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy in ovine fetuses and sheep cloned by somatic cell nuclear transfer. BMC Developmental Biology, 7(1), p.141.

Sample, I. (2016). Dolly’s clones ageing no differently to naturally-conceived sheep, study finds. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jul/26/dollys-clones-ageing-no-differently-to-naturally-conceived-sheep-study-finds [Accessed 22 Nov. 2016].

Sinclair, K., Corr, S., Gutierrez, C., Fisher, P., Lee, J., Rathbone, A., Choi, I., Campbell, K. and Gardner, D. (2016). Healthy ageing of cloned sheep. Nature Communications, 7, p.12359.


Seasonal Eating: Improving the World

Eating our fruits and vegetables in season used to be commonplace, then over time we began to see all varieties of fruit and veg all-year round. Why question a good thing? Winter rhubarb is a thing now! Let them eat rhubarb. The supermarket is now an overly abundent institute impervious to the passage of time and seasons,...

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Eating our fruits and vegetables in season used to be commonplace, then over time we began to see all varieties of fruit and veg all-year round. Why question a good thing? Winter rhubarb is a thing now! Let them eat rhubarb.

The supermarket is now an overly abundent institute impervious to the passage of time and seasons, inexplicably able to give us all we desire whenever every we want it, isn’t it wonderful? The future is wonderful, as this is something supermarkets were unable to do not that long ago. So why knock a good thing? Our providers have found a way to give us all we ever wanted, we demanded it and we got it. It may not be what we tell our kids but “I WANT” always gets, at least in the more ‘economically advanced counties’. So how did we get so lucky?

Well, from the good-will and kindness of others of course. The worldwide community has seen how hungry we are, how desperate we are for year-round asparagus and tomatoes and decided to help.

Okay it’s not quite so hunky-dory, essentially our supermarkets are so large and so rich that they now pay countries able to produce these fruits and vegetables at different times of the year to ensure a year-round supply of everything. Neat huh? Well in many cases yes, though in many others certainly not. The desperation for year-round availability has given rise to an almost slavery driven industry (particularly in Spain) to ensure they produce enough and to keep prices low. And so, we get food imported from round the world but pay very low prices. Neat huh?

Also some countries are not actually able to efficiently produce the foods, one particularly horrific case of this is Peruvian asparagus, in which they are growing asparagus in deserts (yes, deserts) and destroying huge areas of Peru. This is damaging to their agriculture, their local farmers and their land, and not to mention their pride! (to read more on this issue click here). But what’s valentines day without asparagus? You can’t have a day dedicated to love without the darn thing surely?

So in short here are a few reasons eating in season is good for everyone:

  • Reduce the huge amount of CO2 emissions needed to transport the food here.
  • Reduce the CO2 from growing huge amounts of fruit and veg in small areas abroad.
  • Reduce the price of food, transport costs are a lot.
  • Self-sufficiency, our countries are nearly all capable of making a bounty of food and we can get a to state of not relying-on/forcing other countries to produce food for our picky palates. Also, by doing this we can help our local economies, giving money to local farmers and grocers.
  • Food that is in season is often tastier and better for you, that is, it is actually grown correctly and at it’s ripest.
  • It’s nice. I like the idea (maybe many don’t) of having the excitement of a fruit or vegetable coming into season. I appreciate it more and become more enthused with both the purchasing and cooking of food.
  • Because it should be the norm! Transporting huge cargoes of kale and apricots across the glove in giant ships is mental. We humans are odd creatures, but this is certainly one of our more crazy ideas.
  • Finally, to educate children (and ourselves) about food. What food is good when, when it is ripe, but also about where food comes from, which is not just ‘from a supermarket’ as many expect.

However maybe enacting this change is harder than one might hope, given the current knowledge of the seasons in this country. Below are the results of a survey by BBC Good Good Magazine:

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Don’t worry too much if you don’t know the seasons, neither do if I am completely honest. I have to look it up pretty much every time I buy anything. Knowing this stuff just isn’t common-place anymore, though lets try changing that?

P.S

I hope to make a lot more posts on this topic, especially on what’s currently in season and maybe even links to some recipes as to what to do with these foods. Also, I hope to make some infographics and/or images to easily know what’s in season next time you go to the supermarket…maybe even an app…? I’ll see. Anyway, watch this space.

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VIDEO: History of the Cannabis Plant

This is short history and overview of the cannabis plant.

This is short history and overview of the cannabis plant.


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