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The Last Taboo

Joanna Bourke
Chaired by Simon Longstaff
Sat 17 September 12:00pm
Sat 17 September 12:00pm
What does ‘loving animals’ mean?

Condemned throughout history – and criminalised in societies like Australia – the perverted practice of bestiality has a remarkable history of being depicted in many books, films, plays and paintings.

Renowned historian Joanna Bourke explores the modern history of humans abusing animals. Explicitly condemning the cruel, violent and exploitative treatment of animals, she asks: are there better ways to love animals? In doing so, she asserts the dignity of animals which, she thinks, should be uplifted.

Professor Bourke brings a historian’s eye to the changing meanings of ‘bestiality’ and ‘zoophilia’ and explores their psychiatric and sexual aspects as well as the ethics of caring for (and even loving) other non-human animals.

This session may explore adult themes, it is recommended for 16+ years. FODI does not endorse criminal conduct – but reserves the right to examine issues that others consider to be taboo.

It is only in very recent years that some people have begun to undermine the absolute prohibition on zoosexuality. Are their arguments dangerous, perverted or simply wrongheaded?
Joanna Bourke

Joanna Bourke

Joanna Bourke is a historian, academic and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She is also the Gresham Professor of Rhetoric (London, 2019-2023). She is the Principal Investigator on a Wellcome Trust-funded project entitled SHaME (Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters). She is the prize-winning author of 14 books, as well as over 100 articles in academic journals. Amongst other books, she is the author of What it Means To Be Human, The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers, and Disgrace: Global Reflections on Sexual Violence.


Simon Longstaff


Simon Longstaff began his working life on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory of Australia. He is proud of his kinship ties to the Anindilyakwa people. After a period studying law in Sydney and teaching in Tasmania, he pursued postgraduate studies as a Member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 1991, Simon commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre. In 2013, he was made an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the community through the promotion of ethical standards in governance and business, to improving corporate responsibility, and to philosophy.” Simon is an Adjunct Professor of the Australian Graduate School of Management at UNSW, a Fellow of CPA Australia, the Royal Society of NSW and the Australian Risk Policy Institute.