horses

The Weekly Round-Up: Are You A Witch, The Science of Addictive Junk Food and A Defence of FGM

Each week we share five exciting and provocative ideas, links and articles making waves on the internet.

WHY WON’T WE EAT HORSES WHEN WE’RE HAPPY TO EAT COWS?

The horse meat scandal in Britain has sent a nation of staunch meat-eaters to the vegetable bins. It has exposed how removed most urban-dwellers are from where their food comes from, something we looked at ourselves last month. But why is it that we have such a problem eating horse meat? Brock Bastian asked that question on The Conversation this week, remarking, “there is nothing wrong with horse meat. Just like sourdough is a reasonable substitute for rye, horse meat is a reasonable substitute for beef…I would suggest that all the panic over horse meat has little to do with health concerns or consumer trust – it is because horses are considered companions and pets. As with dogs, the thought of eating horses ruptures the flimsy moral boundaries we draw between those things we are happy to slaughter for food and those things we are not.”

WELLS TOWER TAKES HIS DAD TO BURNING MAN

American short story writer Wells Tower wrote a piece for GQ this week about a father-son bonding expedition which lead to Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, a festival renowned for copious amounts of both nudity and hallucinogenics. The by-line says it all: “they went to witness the Slut Olympics. They went to see the art. They went to discover what draws 60, 000 people to one of the least hospitable places on Earth. Then they set up camp and took off their clothes. And things got truly interesting.”

YOUR BRAIN IS ADDICTED TO CHIPS AND SOFT DRINK

A feature published in the New York Times this week exposed the jiggery pokery that goes into creating, testing and selling junk food to the world. In a world where obesity is a growing cause for concern, the article sheds a disturbing light on what goes into the food we eat. Combine salt and fat and multiply it with ‘pleasing mouth feel’ and you have entire nations addicted to foods which are making them sick. “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”

ARE YOU A WITCH?

Because we’ve been thinking about all the things you can call women, we were most pleased to discover this quiz compiled by social historians on the BBC History Magazine‘s website which will tell you whether you would have been burned at the stake during the 16th and 17th centuries. Are you female? Bad luck: 80% of those tried for witchcraft were women. Have a pet? How can you prove it isn’t a familiar? Ever told somebody to go to hell? Even worse: “In 1644, Edinburgh shopkeeper Agnes Finnie was charged with 20 counts of witchcraft after falling out with a number of neighbours and customers. In one case, Agnes was accused of “having fallen in a controversy with Margaret Williamson [and] most outrageously wished the Devil to blow her blind”. Witnesses reported that Williamson did indeed fall ill after this threat, and allegedly lost her sight.”

A DEFENCE OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

This week Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, a Sierra Leone-born American anthropologist, published a defence of the cultural practice known as female genital mutilation on Daily Life ahead of her appearance on SBS’s Insight program. As somebody who chose to undergo the process in her 20s, Ahmadu is a leading figure in debates around the cultural practice which is practiced largely in African countries. She asks, “How can Western public health officials, global health institutions and feminist organisations maintain a straight face in condemning African female genital surgeries as FGM, yet turn a blind eye and even issue guidelines for the performance of very similar and sometimes more invasive procedures on Western (mostly white) women, under the guise of cosmetic surgery?” For an alternative perspective, check out Ayaan Hirsi Ali who will be speaking at All About Women.

And this week, because we’ve been having many ideas and wanted to celebrate them, we give you Sydney Opera House alumnus David Sedaris reading from Fifty Shades of Grey.