Stupid things that meat-eaters say

I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. This post is not intended to promote vegetarianism or veganism (or, indeed, meat-eating). Its purpose is to point out that some of the things many meat-eaters say about vegetarians and vegans are really stupid. And they should stop saying them, because they’re embarrassing the rest of us.

Here they are (I’m sure you can think of more):

But other animals eat meat!
The stupidity of this should be obvious. Are other animals good moral examples suddenly? If another animal does something, is it therefore OK to do it? Have you watched how cats mate?

There’s a slightly more sophisticated version of this argument, where it’s pointed out that vegetarians are more concerned with human morality than with actually reducing animals’ suffering. If they were really concerned with the latter, the argument goes, they’d try to stop other animals eating meat too. This is a better argument, but not much. Most meat-eaters tend to agree that torturing small rodents is bad, so they don’t do it and are quick to condemn others who do so. But very few of them form vigilante groups devoted to saving mice from cats. We’ll also note in passing that stopping obligate carnivores like cats from hunting mice and eating meat is itself rather cruel (ooh, a dilemma. Why don’t our brains explode?).

What would you do if you were starving and the only available food was meat?
Well, what would you do if you were starving and the only available food was human being?

If you visit vegetarians/vegans, you have to eat vegetarian/vegan food. If they visit you, you have to make them vegetarian/vegan food!
Curiously the people who make this argument seem more tolerant of friends whose diet is restricted on cultural or religious grounds. Which is rather silly. I’d rather accommodate to life choices that are based on ethical considerations than tradition or old books. In any case, the argument’s stupid. It seems to be trying to imply that non-meat-eaters are being selfish. If anything, it’s the reverse. How many meat-eaters eat meat because they think doing so is ethically preferable to not eating it?

I don’t feel as if I’ve had a proper meal if it didn’t contain meat!
Then your diet probably isn’t very healthy. And you either have little experience of good vegetarian food (plus an impoverished imagination) or you’re very fussy. The problem is all your own.

We evolved to eat meat!
At least this is about us, not other animals. It’s still a bad argument though. We evolved to be able to eat meat. This doesn’t mean we should, or that it’s unhealthy not to. We evolved to do a lot of things we don’t do now.

I don’t understand vegetarians who eat fake meat products. Why don’t they just eat meat?!
This is a bizarrely common question. It’s also a really really stupid one. Weren’t these people paying attention? If someone thinks eating meat is wrong, then they’re right not to eat it. And if they miss the experience of eating meat, then it’s entirely reasonable for them to choose something meat-like to eat. You might as well ask, “I can’t understand people who chew nicotine gum. Why don’t they just smoke a cigarette?!” And anyway, what if you just happen to really like nicotine gum? Seitan is pretty delicious.

That’s it for now. I may think of more. Also look out for upcoming posts on stupid things vegetarians and vegans say. It turns out no one has a monopoly on saying stupid things about diet.

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Iori

Last Tuesday afternoon I got a text from my wife to say that she’d been having “some period pain type feelings. Not sure if it’s going to turn into anything more dramatic.”

By Wednesday it had turned into this:

He’s called Iorwerth Rowan (/ˈjɔrwɛrθ/), or Iori for short (/ˈjɔri/). He weighed 9lb 3oz at birth and was about 22 inches long. We shall of course be bringing him up bilingual.

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Garic Gymro’s first law of fiction

Many authors and directors release books and films that follow on from earlier books and films that they’ve released. Harry Potter is an obvious example. Now, both the Harry Potter series of books and the Harry Potter series of films were released in chronological order. The second book recounted events that occurred after the events of the first book, and so on. This doesn’t always happen. C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew was published much later than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but is about events that happened earlier. Similarly, of the six Star Wars feature films, the last three to have been releases are about events prior to the events of the first three.

The question faced by people who come late to these series if, “Which should I read/watch first?” The answer is simple:

It is almost always better to enjoy the series in order of release, not in chronological order.

First, authors, publishers, directors and producers need their books and films to do well. They don’t want people to read or watch the first one to be released and feel they haven’t got enough backstory to understand the plot. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find you need to read later-released books to understand earlier-released ones.

Second, while reading books in release order is unlikely to spoil your enjoyment, reading them out of release order (even if this means reading them chronologically) may well do so. Isn’t it better to watch Return of the Jedi before you know what the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke is? Isn’t it better to be presented with the mystery of the lamp-post in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before having it explained in The Magician’s Nephew?

Sure, it doesn’t make all that much difference (my wife routinely reads book series in random orders), but it seems obvious to me that if you care about such things at all, release order is better than chronological order. Interestingly, authors and directors don’t always agree. George Lucas seems to think you should start with The Phantom Menace. C. S. Lewis apparently recommended reading The Magician’s Nephew first, but added that authors don’t always provide the best guidance.

I agree with that last point.

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Some films I would like to make (or see made)

Here are some fairly mainstream films I’d like to make if I had the money, or see made by someone else, please.

  • A film about Owain Glyndŵr that has high production values, but tries to represent the history fairly accurately, and isn’t embarrassing like Braveheart.
  • A better attempt than Antoine Fuqua’s at representing a historically plausible King Arthur. It doesn’t even have to be about King Arthur. I’d just like to see a really good film about fifth/sixth-century Britain.
  • An adaptation of His Dark Materials that doesn’t care about angry Christians.
  • A film about Ludwig Zamenhof.
  • A film about Nazis attacking earth from the dark side of the moon (oh, wait… that’s already being made!)
  • A remake of the Omen that makes it really ambiguous whether the boy is evil or the Dad is insane.
  • A really radical cut of Gangs of New York (it might work).
  • An original horror film (it’s been a little while).
  • A film about David Lloyd George.
  • A film whose tagline is: “Hope can hold you prisoner. Fear can set you free.”

Some films I don’t want to see:

  • Yet another Tim Burton movie made according to his own inimitable style.
  • Any remake of a good film just because the original was foreign.

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A sunny morning in Manhattan

I thought I might begin this week with a post of pictures showing the devastation Hurricane Irene wrought on my neighbourhood in Manhattan. But having gone out into a beautiful, cool, still, sunny morning, to see leaves on the pavements and very little else to remark upon, I decided not to bother. Living and working near the highest point of Manhattan helps, I’m sure. There’s been a little leak into my office (which is in a basement), but nothing very serious. There was no damage to our apartment, no power cut, and my wife didn’t suddenly go into labour. So that’s all right.

This Saturday, in fact, we enter the window where my baby could be born without being considered premature, which is enormously exciting and terrifying. This morning we met a paediatrician who seems to suit our requirements admirably.

Now back to work…

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That marriage in Cuba

I meant to talk about the marriage in Cuba between a gay man and a transgendered woman a little sooner (after all, it’s been almost two weeks).

I think there are good things and bad things about this story. First, I’m very glad for the couple, and I hope their marriage is happy and successful. Second, it is of course a good thing that the country has liberalised its attitudes to trans people. The problem is that this was reported in all sorts of places as a “gay marriage”, albeit within scare quotes. But it’s not. Marriage between two people of the same sex is illegal in Cuba. This marriage was between a man and a woman; it just happens that the woman has an X and a Y chromosome.

There are two problems with referring to it as a gay marriage. First, it implies that, while her birth certificate now states she is a woman, Wendy Iriepa is “really” a man. Second, I can’t help worrying that this will encourage a dangerous attitude towards homosexuality. In Iran, for example, homosexual activity can be punished by corporal or capital punishment. Sex-change surgery, however, is permitted, and some clerics have apparently encouraged this as a good option for gay people. This approach, obviously, is rather an unhealthy and dangerous one. Homosexuality and transgenderism are not the same thing at all, and confusing the two—as has been done by people calling the Cuban marriage a gay one—helps no one.

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Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat?

This is an interesting example of what can perhaps best be described as deluded pedantry. Google “does muscle weigh more than fat”, and you’ll find a variety of sources telling you that it doesn’t. As one of them puts it:

Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. Muscle is more dense than fat though, so a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat.

In other words, every substance in the universe weighs the same as every other substance. Just to clear this up: when people ask if muscle weighs more than fat, they’re asking if an equal volume of muscle and fat have the same weight. Which I would have thought was obvious.

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