Yesterday was a bit of a sad today for me; for a reason that would probably make you laugh.

My local halal butcher shop – which I believe had existed for approximately fifty years – finally closed its doors as its lease ended. The reason this came as a shock was because I had attended this place weekly for many years, and I was never told about their impending closure; thus I never got a chance to say goodbye. I forged basic friendships with the staffers there, as is only possible within little shops.
There is, fortunately, another shop just across the road from it, but the one I went to was exceedingly popular amongst all types of people. Of the three butcher shops in the area, one of which is a traditional English butchers, this one had the gold medal for quality and service.

This post though is a bit more than a eulogy to a shop most of you don’t know or care about, it made me remember the debate of stunned versus slaughtered meat which has strongly polarised opinion. I want to state up front that I’m not particularly militant in my opinion and allowing both to remain is the rational bet.

The slaughter of meat is most obviously associated with Jewish and Muslim observance, but I think one thing that’s omitted from the debate is that slaughtering pre-dates either of these religions, and was likely imported into Judaism from a previous cultural phenomenon, and then into Islam. We know this is true because stunning was not an option until we got a handle on electricity, but the nature of early slaughtering was probably similar to the way other animals hunt animals; so in effect, though slaughtering sounds like a horrible word (and is), it is the order of nature. And if you are going to consume meat you have to understand that death, regrettably, is a factor in any method.

I also think that regardless of cultural practice – which hones the business of slaughter to a quicker swoop and prayer – that slaughter is humane. The most cited scientific paper that proves this, and which to my knowledge has not been refuted, is one from 1986 which found that animals that were stunned and then killed showed more pain than those who received a swift cut to the jugular – as measured by EEG. The conclusion was interesting but a study perhaps wasn’t even necessary. If somebody were to murder you by first hitting you on the head, then cutting you up while you might not be fully unconscious, you will undoubtedly be in a pain you can’t express; if, however, your throat were slit quickly only, you are dead there and then.
Aside from a merciful approach to death, the beauty of kosher/halal produce is that blood drains from it completely due to the body’s convulsions – movements similar to an epileptic fit, and epileptics do not remember their fit as their brain is ‘shut off’ during this time.
Blood drained meat becomes a product and no longer an animal. Because it no longer contains blood, it no longer contains internal microbes which can shorten the longevity of the meat and potentially be a health hazard. Even though people take care to cook meat, dripping blood in preparation can contaminate other things. So, in that respect I feel the primitive logic is sound. One other benefit of slaughtered meat is that many people agree it tastes better; most likely because drainage has elongated the freshness. This is probably also why, secretly, a proportion of British supermarket meat not even explicitly advertised as halal or kosher is non-stunned as it can be kept in factories and shops for a longer period. It has a financial benefit.

Opposition to slaughtering, I think, has a number of variables; there seems to be an ‘us and them’ thing about it, and the image of convulsions seems to irk a lot of people. I think though people need to consider it more carefully than dismiss it as a foreign peculiarity.

Album review – Recoil: Selected (Expanded Edition)

This compilation actually came out about a year ago and the reason I thought I’d produce a review for it is the fact that there are very few longish ones that give it anything more than a lukewarm response.

I’ve never listened to a Recoil release in entirety before but was aware of the artist who in decades past was the engine behind the golden period of Basildon’s electronic pop kings. Why I decided to search for ‘recoil’ on Spotify only a few weeks ago has left my memory, but upon hearing this selection, which aims to attract new listeners, I decided to use some of my iTunes gift credit to purchase the expanded edition; the remixes are impressive. David Husser’s Shotgun Mix of Prey, for example, to me, seems slightly better than the original because of the more defined beat, and the excerpt of Black Box shows that it is a must have if you like the bit you can hear in the well-made trailer below.

If I were to describe Recoil in a sentence, I guess you could say, judging from what’s on here, that the music is like a very dark Moby. If you’re looking for pop structures you’re not going to find it in abundance. Instead the emphasis is mostly on atmospherics, usually bolstered by seductive storytelling rather than singing to heighten the tension. A good example of this is actually the track Want which you can download for free on the Recoil site. If you were to be punished by a femme fatale, at least the protagonist here would first lull you into false security with the tones that are in contrast to what she’s saying.
The Moby link is most evident on the song Jezebel with its old blues singing, while Faith Healer is almost a reminder of Depeche Mode because the singer is virtually part Dave Gahan, part James Hetfield. It’s the only song here which has a traditional pop structure.

The only duff point, perhaps, is the very final track which is a remix of Shunt. It seems overly avant garde, but in its defence, if you were to listen to the remixes segment in one sitting, it does conclude it very well, and it was Mr. Wilder’s intention that Recoil: Selected be a listening experience that works just as well as the releases that it was built from.
If you like good production, well crafted beats and don’t mind leaving the world of verse-chorus-verse, you will probably really like it. I give it an 11/10 as I’ve listened to it more than I should.

I found the whole thing slowly grew on me. My feelings were as follows: “I like it but I don’t think I’ll buy it”, “Hmm, I’ve listened to it a few times so maybe I’ll consider the single disc version”, “I think I better just buy the expanded edition.”

Review: Vitamin D – Improving Pregnancy & Childbirth, 17 May 2011 @ Wellcome Trust Conference Centre

If you weren’t there, you missed Oliver Gillie topless again, and the threat of Dr. David Grimes doing the same. The ladies had to be restrained, if my memory isn’t failing me.

This was the second of three (for now?) English vitamin D conferences – the third of which is on cancer, tomorrow, which I will not be attending – and this one focussed on vitamin D where it matters most: at the beginning of life.

The old adage that prevention is better than the cure may be cliché now, but for vitamin D it still couldn’t be more apt. You have to remember that vitamin D won’t cure or treat all illnesses, but betting that it could prevent most of them would give you a better return than playing the lottery. Besides, why should people suffer in the first place?

The aim of the worldwide vitamin D movement is to make sure that this substance is seen as on par with the clean water we take for granted in the developed world; and I think all the people assembled there – speakers and attendees – are willing soldiers in their own way. And what an assorted bunch.

It was great to see a speaker from India there as one weight I feel on my particular shoulders is that the message is not reaching many people of South Asian origin, which is my background. I’m hoping that my forthcoming book – which is not exclusively aimed at this one group – will help change that, and also find an audience with the almost equally afflicted black community.

Other speakers there included a fourth and final person whom I interviewed for my book late last year, and Elina Hyppönen.

I personally found this conference a bit more informative than the previous one as there were a few new perspectives, especially from Grimes’s presentation. His mention of dysbiosis and inherited susceptibility is almost in line with stuff I’m currently polishing up.

I didn’t mingle as much with people in breaks this time, but one woman I talked to raised my faith in humanity more; an Italian who has helped educate the local Somalian community about vitamin D (people who are black and can be conservatively dressed Muslims), thereby, undoubtedly, preventing some health catastrophes.
Indeed, the wonderful thing about this, and admittedly all health based events, is that they are gatherings for common good. And no one can stop common good. Time gives up in the end.

You can view the slideshow presentations and videos for this, and other conferences, at:

Oui to AV

On May 5th, depending on what (mis)information you’ve received, the UK gets a referendum on whether we should:

a) Reduce the alphabet by two letters: one vowel, one consonant
b) Ban audio/video cables
c) Implement an alternative voting system
d) Automatically allow the BNP into power

The first two options – just in case your humour sensor is off – are obviously false. The last one is false too, but the No2AV campaign would like to scare you into thinking that’s true.

The reason why I‘m going to vote in favour of AV is because it simply seems fairer. It allows more choice and makes our democracy more…democratic.

To those unfamiliar, our current voting system means we place an X beside one candidate only, whereas with AV we would be able to number our preferences in order of 1, 2, 3 and so on. If one party gets more than half the votes, they win, pretty much in the same way as our current first-past-the-post system. However, if there is no clear winner, next-choice votes are added up until a winner emerges from that. With AV I basically get to choose which other horses to back in case the one I most prefer loses to another who I don’t really care for.

What pushes my decision to vote yes is the dishonesty from the No2AV campaign. They allege in certain flyers that only a few non-European countries have AV and want out. This is not true as our neighbours Ireland already have it, and if presented with a referendum for our current system I’m sure they would vote against it. Furthermore, it is a bit conniving to talk of the system as AV, as the Irish would probably call it preferential voting, so technically they don’t have AV by title.

The idea that the far-right BNP would have a better chance of getting more votes and into power is also plain scaremongering and patronises the general electorate. The BNP rarely do well in England, and when they do it’s temporarily after some tensions they’ve whipped up in certain towns. Immigration does seem a touchy topic, but most people understand that the BNP are incapable of implementing anything that would make the lives of ‘indigenous’ or other British people better.
It is possible that hung parliaments are a stronger likelihood under AV, but I would hedge that once everyone removes any delusion about what it’s about, more people would be more likely to bother turning up to vote in an election – that one day where you can turn your moan into an action – and not give away votes to other parties in protest to make sure that who they prefer, or next prefer really gets into power.

To me, AV is a not a controversial choice. We won’t know if we won’t like it if we don’t even have a chance to see it in action. All I know is that the current system seems wrong.