Monday, September 27, 2010

Is New Zealand lamb kosher or halal?

Kosher lamb slaughter
New Zealander's pride themselves on the care that they take of their animals. In May the  2010 Ministry of Agriculture issued a new code to ensure that all those involved in the slaughter of animals adopt welfare requirements to ensure all animals are humanely killed.

The code requires all animals slaughtered commercially in New Zealand to be stunned prior to killing. This is to ensure animals at slaughter are treated humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge.

This meant that all types of ritual halal & kosher slaughter were banned. This infuriated the Jewish community that insists on strict religious traditions. The Jewish community has appealed these regulations.

So it came as a surprise to read the headlines in the Mail on Line

"More than 70 per cent of the New Zealand lamb sold in Britain comes from halal slaughterhouses without the fact being declared on the label
All the slaughtermen in these establishments must be Muslim and say a prayer when making the cut across the animal’s throat which kills it.
The New Zealand meat industry has taken the step to ensure its lamb can be sold in Muslim markets round the world."

Daily Mail 25 9 2010

The 150  UK comments made it quite clear that  halal New Zealand lamb ought to be taken off the menu or boycotted. It even had me worried although I did leave a Side Wiki saying that I thought the Mail could be mistaken.

So I did some research. It appears in traditional  halal slaughter stunning prior to slaughter is generally not the practice. However a non-penetrating concussion stunning prior to slaughter has received approval from some Muslim authorities. Work in the 80's in New Zealand led to the development of a very sophisticated electrical stunning apparatus that met a Muslim standard where an animal must be able to regain consciousness in less than a minute and must be able to eat within five minutes. The quickest way to kill a sheep is to stun it and cut its throat. This takes three seconds.

Head-only electric stunning prior to slaughter is used in almost all sheep slaughter plants in New Zealand and Australia. Electric stunning of cattle is used in many New Zealand cattle slaughter plants and the practice is spreading to Australia. Meat from electrically stunned cattle and sheep is exported to middle eastern countries with stringent religious requirements.

The slaughter man  does not have to be a Muslim just of the book that means any Christian or Jew will do but not a Hindu or non believer.

Surely this concession from Muslim clerics is to be applauded as hopefully it will lead to the elimination of traditional halal which must be a good thing. All traditional halal slaughter without stunning is now illegal in NZ and hopefully the Jewish request for Kosher slaughter will be refused next year.

Just because New Zealand is able to sell its humanely pre stunned lamb to Muslims does not mean it is traditional halal ritually slaughtered lamb.

Maybe for once the Mail should have shut up and let this lie in the interests of the sheep. I don't eat pork because of the way it is farmed. I don't eat chicken ditto but having done my research and unless the Mail can give me evidence which it still could, I shall continue to eat NZ beef and lamb.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Oldest Woman in UK Rebecca Hewinson

Rebecca Hewinson 1947 with Andrew & Janette Miller(with bows)
 Rebecca Hewinson

The oldest man in the world has celebrated his 114th birthday with a slice of cake and few pearls of wisdom.

Just as in society at large women live longer than men, Mr Breuning is actually the fourth oldest person in the world, behind three women.The oldest lady in the world is Eugénie Blanchard from France, born on February 16, 1896.
Daily Mail

If I had only one claim to fame, not that I have any others other than being infuriating it would be that I lived next door to one of the oldest women who ever lived, Rebecca Hewinson, Nana, who lived at 50 St Andrews Drive Stanmore Middx.

This remarkable woman lived just ten days short of her 115th birthday. She outlived her daughter and her son in law and eventually died of old age in her home town of Grimsby.

There was nothing especially different about Nana except that she was a very hard worker, a scrubber in fact and I do not mean this is a derogatory sense. Nana knew how to clean a house. She lived with her daughter Violet and her husband Charles all her life and did everything!

When they Kett family eventually moved to Devon in the 1970s I remember I asked if Nana was still alive and Charles nodded and looked me in the eye. Charles never knew a day alone in the house with his wife. Nana was always there which was a 'good thing' for her daughter was not very strong.

I discovered that in her youth in Grimbsy Nana had worked on the docks gutting fish. This probably was why she was in such robust health. I have some sympathy for Nana because my own great grandmother was a fish wife, Granny Annie owned and ran the fishmongers in Glasgow and was renowned for the loudness of her voice and strong working class opinions that it appears I have inherited.

Every morning as I went to school  Nana would wash the doorstep  and she didn't stop until after dark. Starched sheets for the entire  family once a week before the days of washing machines and dryers. Nana had two grandsons David and Andrew who was one of my early playmates. Andrew taught me about sex at the age of six and I, a good convent school girl, didn't believe him. Nana also took me to Sunday School CofE, where I had to learn not to genuflect or cross myself. I never worked out the difference for years.

I  spoke to her every day of the eighteen years that I lived in that horrible semi detached. The Ketts hated semi living too. Like my Fishwife granny, I  and the Ketts were determined to move up, anywhere in fact than St Andrews Drive. The Ketts moved out first. The sad thing is after all that time 18 years, they left without a goodbye. I never saw or spoke to Nana again and now she is famous. Pictures in the Media every year and I expect a Times Obituary.

I loved her. Nana knew all about hard work. She deserved moment of fame.
Charles Kett, unknown, Rebecca Hewinson, Violet Kett.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Change of Name?

Heffernan is a bit of a mouthful. It is not my name! I was born Janette Mary Miller and I acquired the name Heffernan when I married.

It is not an easy name. When I first encountered it on Queens Ice Rink in Bayswater London when my GP husband literally fell at my feet I was not impressed. I thought Heffernan was German!

In fact Heffernan is Irish and means either 'Master of the Horse' or 'sporn of hell' ! For eight years I did not have to bother and indeed for the first seven years it did not matter but after the intervention of Noel Tovey, our cupid and a trip to Athens Miles eventually asked me to marry him.

In 1972 one took one's husband's name. If I had married today I wouldn't. I had my own career and name and today there would have been no question about it I should have retained Miller.

For 38 years I have laboured under this name. It has been a nightmare. First I have to spell out Janette, J for Juliette, A for Horses, N for lope etc and then after that H for Hero, E Echo etc.

It would not be so bad if I was still part of Miles's family but I am not. They all live in UK  or USA. Added to that my daughter opted very sensibly for her husband's name as being a school teacher it makes life easier.

Heffernan is a very Irish name from Tipperary in Eire. That means  Irish RC. Apart from my Irish Grandmother from Dublin, named Mackenzie, there's a good Irish name, I have nothing in my blood that says Ireland and yet because of this appendage I have to defend all the Troubles of this cantankerous country. I was nearly assaulted at a dinner party by a true Irishman from the Northern end who didn't like Catholic Southerners. He nearly assaulted me after a few drinks. It was most unpleasant.

I should have done it immediately my husband died and if things had been different I should have left it but for the last two years I have been able to sing again professionally and on YouTube and iTunes I have used my real name and I like it.

I am no longer a wife who belongs to her husband but me Janette Miller, I feel like Janette Miller and I am toying with trying it out again to see if it works.

In NZ and UK it is easy to revert to one's maiden name. It is not as if one had to change a birth certificate. I do not even have to have a Deed Poll . It is the email that is a frost as is not available but a '.me' so why not?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Joys of Cooking a Joint.

Some weeks life my can be so boring ! The highlight of my week is having the car serviced which is happening today. It does so few kilometers a year it hardly seems worth it but I am told it is necessary to change the oil.

That and my Bosch oven which took 4 hours to cook a leg of lamb on Sunday and I thought that was a tads too long. Was frustrated when I was told by the so called expert that it was probably incorrectly installed and he went on that if this was the case 'they couldn't 'do' anything about it!!!!' Had I the installation instructions? The expert would not do a temperature test unless he had seen these first.

The expert felt that the oven probably did not have enough ventilation and pontificated about incorrect kitchen installation. I explained it was just a replacement oven and the sales person had said nothing about installation. I was quite cross as I felt if the oven needed ventilation I should have been told.

I felt as if I was a complete failure. I mean am I supposed to be a qualified electrician? That is what I pay the experts for. Who keeps all the bits of paper that come with electrical appliances? I had the instruction book and the receipt.

I was not a happy camper! After I calmed down I did a 'Google' and found the installation instructions for this oven in thirty seconds flat. He had the oven number and could have done this himself. I can see nothing about ventilation. It just says it fits all normal kitchen cabinets.

So I await the 'Expert' with newly found confidence.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

President Obama and the Fundamentalists

There must have been a moment over the past few days when President Obama must have wished he was the head of a secular state. This is the problem with bringing religion into politics and world affairs. Things can turn nasty.

The experience of watching the theist religions insulting each over trivia and taking Obama away from his real problems, 11% unemployment and a sluggish economy to deal with an obstreperous pastor, a lack of sensitivity by the Imams over the siting of a mosque is really too silly in this day and age.

A secular leader could laugh the while thing off as superstitious nonsense and give his uneducated countrymen and women a lesson in basic biology and tell them to grow up!

Anyone with a basic science education and a smattering of knowledge of the hereditary significance of DNA knows that the bible is wrong in the very first chapter so wrong that any intelligent person knows the Bible is not a text book for life.

I feel I need have no need to mention that the lack of a  real biblical Adam and Eve showing up in Homo Sapiens DNA is a major impediment to the Bible's veracity. If this is the first time you have come across this problem I leave you to work it out for yourself.

Had Obama been a non-believer he could have given both sides a lesson in reason, explained nicely that the world has moved on since the dark ages and made sure that science lessons are not compromised  to accommodate the fact that Adam & Eve never existed as they are in Texas at present.

Education is the key. Secular education and a secular state will take the biblical religions out of the equation and the sooner the better.

President Obama went to Harvard so he must have some scientific knowledge. It is worth noting that when Obama took his second Inaugural Oath in the Oval Office he did not use a bible and did for once mention non believers in his inaugural Address.

The problem is Obama needs the votes of middle America and most of them are fundamentalist Christians. One thing is certain Middle Americans would never vote for Obama if he were an atheist. So President Obama cannot tell the recalcitrant cleric where to stick his .......!

It is worth noting that when Obama took his second oath in the Oval Office he did not use a bible and did for once mention non believers in his inaugural address.

So it is a Christian President up against  militant Islam. Not a happy thought! The problem is that it is non believers like me who will suffer when the next Crusade takes place only this time both Islam, Judaism  have atomic bombs as well as the Christians.

Why don't we all grow up!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Earthquakes and Corruption

Earthquakes and Corruption

Over the last few days new Zealand has been recovering from a major earthquake. The sort of earthquake that has your local television coming up with pictures of houses collapsed in the streets, water mains cracked  and the general population in a dazed state of shock.

A 7.1 earthquake usually has the charity organizations raising funds to help the earthquake victims  and the USA offering to send an aircraft carrier. It did this time but was not needed. Why?

New Zealand's quake was of this magnitude. It is on the same scale as Haiti  actually Haiti's was slightly less. The picture above is not of Christchurch but of Haiti. It must be admitted that our earthquake struck at 4 am in the morning when most of our population was in bed while Haiti's earthquake struck at 4 pm in the afternoon when, luckily for Haiti, all its inhabitants were  up and about. At home in bed they would have stood even less chance of survival.

Because of the early hour the streets of Christchurch were deserted so nobody was killed through falling masonry but if Haiti had had its earth quake at night the death toll would possibly have been even worse than the 200,000 because with no building codes  the unsafe houses would have collapsed on the sleeping occupants at the first shake.

Out of interest I researched what has happened to Haiti in the six months since the earthquake and I was astonished to find that Haiti has done nothing. Rubble is still lying  in the streets as it had the day the quake happened. Citizens are still sleeping in tents and what I find distressing and unacceptable is the enormous fund of donations enough to give every family US$37000 each has yet to be distributed.

The Government of Haiti has only distributed 2% of the fund the rest is ....... where?

So different from New Zealand where the rubble started to be removed on the first  day, 90% of  water and power was restored by the first evening and gangs of students and helpers moved in unasked to clear the streets and help with the clean up. In Haiti they are still waiting for someone else to do it and all the someone- elses have gone home

Two things immediately  come to mind as the main differences between NZ and Haiti. They are strong building codes  and the lack of corruption. The
consequence being that NZ does not need any aid and Haiti does.

Why is it that some countries just do not understand that corruption is not good for general populations? At NZ universities the architecture department runs courses in ethics and I am told that the Asian students have quite a hard time coming to grips that it is not done to bribe the building inspector even if you could in NZ as badly built buildings kill and yet it seems that the message has yet to get through.

Right in the middle of its disaster Pakistan when it badly needed the whole world's sympathy and help their  well paid cricketers were caught on camera in an almighty scam. Corruption is a way of life. Bribing officials is the only way to get something done and look at the result. Badly built infrastructure. Pakistan knew if the flood plans were not managed this type of catastrophic flood would happen. It is not a  a work of God but a work of stupid greedy men. Pakistan is ruled by just 22 families who own all the wealth. The President did not even bother to interrupt his visit to Europe.

Africa has its own brand of corruption and so now does UK with the vicars conducting illegal weddings for a price.

Again it is sad that it is not helpful giving money to these corrupt  countries as it rarely gets to  the people who need it. The donations disappears into coffers  and pockets of persons unknown. However  my donation always makes me feel better.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christchurch Earthquake 2010

Earthquake NZ Style

This morning the South Island of New Zealand experienced a major earthquake rated 7.1 on the Richter scale. That's a mighty big earthquake.

I first heard of it on the BBC World Service because TVNZ wasn't up and running till later. The shock's epicenter was at Darfield about 30 miles outside Christchurch which is the main city in the South Island.

My first thought was NZ doesn't do earthquakes of major proportions. That is silly because it does as NZ is on the Pacific Rim and the next was to wonder if my daughter who lives in Christchurch was OK.  She rang almost immediately to say she was.

Evidently it had happened at about 4 am when everyone was asleep. She had awoken to violent shaking which had lasted for about a minute and she and her daughter had sought safety in the door frames as we are taught to do. The wooden house it appears has stood up surprisingly well although she has lost glass and ornaments. Fortunately for her family she still has power but many do not. Water is another problem  but she has the water in the hot water tank.

The amazing thing is that there were no fatalities. If the quake had happened a bit later and Christchurch had been up and running it would have been different. While I was speaking to her at around 8 am Christchurch experienced a serious 5.1 after shock. 

I have been fortunate in never having been part of a major quake. The nearest I have come to it was while on stage playing 'Polly Brown' in 'The Boyfriend' in Johannesburg as city built on gold mines that collapse  thus triggering minor earthquakes from time to time. One of these happened  while I was alone on stage. There was a bit of a shake enough to make the light holders that hold the gells to jump out of their sockets. As they were about 50 ft above the stage they plummeted down like a shower of knives as I sat and watched as the crashed around me. It was over in seconds.

I took a deep breath and just continued as if nothing had happened and in truth I had no idea of the danger I had been in because these steel holders were like a hail of guillotines. The shake in Christchurch was considerably worse and I thought my daughter was very brave.

But I am proud of the way that New Zealand has coped with the devastation. The building codes although not perfect have stood the city in good stead and nobody was hurt although this is as bad an earthquake as it gets. I hate having to have the building inspector call when I did my renovations as they are very tough here and nothing gets past their beady eyes but now I realise it is a 'good thing'.

The power was down but will be back tonight for most. People are well educated and know what to do. There was no panic. The hospital is up and running and the civil defense and police worked well.

We have civil defense information on the back of our telephone directories. 

A 'big' problem is the cows who have to be milked. The milking sheds have been kocked off their foundations. New Zealand has a lot of cows.

This is a big, destructive event but  a relief  that there is no loss of life and NZ is well organized. We have been lucky and at least like the BOy Scouts motto we were well prepared.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Royal Windsor Hotel Brussels

The Royal Windsor Hotel Brussels

When I was trying to sell my children's ballet series 'Dance Tales' to an unwilling world, I took with me a stuffed toy animal, a Snark. The ballet was not really appreciated but my 'Snark' caused a sensation and so it came to pass that I had to go to Brussels to meet the creator of the Smerfs. At the time I had no idea and what an honour this was.

I was staying with my parents in Bournemouth during this period and I booked a short four day weekend with a travel agent as this  was the cheapest way. The cheap offers were all filled so I went for the first time for the superior option. I had no idea of just what a brilliant choice I had made.

I arrived in Brussels at around 10 pm tired and exhausted and for the first time in my life nobody could speak English. Maybe it was late or maybe the Belgians did not feel like helping me out but I had to brush off my school girl French and try and work out the directions to the Royal Windsor Hotel which I worked out was within walking distance.

My problem was I mistook my 'droit' from my 'guoche'  and 'eglises' and 'escaliers' and it took me a bit of time to work out my mistake. It then started to rain but eventually I arrived at the Royal Windsor Hotel tired and frustrated. It was like magic. I walked into a fairyland of comfort and good manners. Such a change from the railway station.

Being a performing artist I have spent many years of my life in hotels, usually not very good ones but with the occasional five star thrown in. Most have a flaw with which up one puts but the Royal Windsor Brussels was an exception. It was warm and welcoming and it immediately made me feel welcome.

I was shown to my small but perfectly decorated room and my schoolgirl French got a bit better. 'Il fait beau' I exclaimed and the porter was nice enough not to point out that I had the wrong article as 'Chambre' is femine! But soon I was in a superbly comfy soft bed, down pillows sipping hot chocolate and sung and safe eating the chocolates left on the pillow .

Next morning breakfast arrived on a huge tray. It must have taken an age to put it all together. I remember the starched napkins were the softest rose pink and again chocolates and a rose were provided. I was in heaven.

The soaps provided in the Bathroom which was also pink had came in little plum plastic soap boxes and had the most delicious perfume. I saved everyone and only last year did throw the final one away.

This hotel had been so unexpected. It was centrally placed, just steps away from the Grand Place. It was the perfect place for a Brussels holiday and I enjoyed really my one and only real holiday of my life which was unplanned but oh so enjoyable. I have never experienced another quite like it and now that I can no longer travel I never shall.

That was a few years ago but the photos today give and idea of the style and grandeur that I experienced. I shall never go back as I might be disappointed but oh I wish every hotel was like The Royal Windsor Hotel Brussels.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

1st September - First Day of Spring

It still seems strange to me that the first day of Spring should be the first of September and in Auckland Spring arrives on cue. Yesterday was dank and gloomy but this morning I awoke to the smell of Spring.

The day was soft and balmy so different from last week's terrible Sunday when I got caught in the hail storm in the open. It made me feel so good that I went back to the Auckland Botanic Gardens to get the close ups of the daffodils that I missed.

Even the fact that I could not find my expensive tripod anywhere before I left and although I felt sure I had bought it home I came to the conclusion that I must have left it in a bush at the Auckland Botanic Gardens in my haste to get out of the storm did not upset me! The heavy traffic on the Harbour Bridge did not upset me and the fact that hoards of children were demolishing the last of the daffodils did not upset me.

Then I saw the tuis! These are rare honey eating NZ native birds who have a brilliant voice due to a having two voice boxes and I filmed them in a feeding frenzy in the cherry trees. They are affectionately called The Parson Bird because of the two white feathers under their chins that look like dog collars. Like parrots tuis are very intelligent and excellent singers. Would I has their top notes.

The traffic was heavy on the way home. nasty accident on the bridge had backed up traffic for miles but even that did not upset me.

When I got home I found my tripod in the broom cupboard. Unexpected visitors had made me do a quick tidy! That really made my day.