This society argues the toss about questions that have no particular value in society such as how much a zebra would cost if you ran a barcode reader over various parts of its skin. Other questions include how many ants does it take to make an ant colony successful and how many cars have to be stationary before they can be described as a traffic jam?
This club came into existence in Manchester University when the debating society became too serious and competitive for some of the undergraduates. They yearned for something more frivolous that could be debated with some humour and yet still rewarded witty, sharp minds.
The name came from a drunken conversation in a branch of Sainsbury’s when one of the founders, Simon Mulgrew, stole a barcode reader and started to ‘read’ the various products on offer. He found that licorice would cost 3.45 pounds per stick and that black and white straws would cost various prices from 12 pence to 43 pounds depending on the combination of straws read.
This set him thinking how much a zebra would cost, but there were no zebras in Sainsbury’s that day so he never did find the answer. Hence he put the topic forward at the next debating society meeting. When the question was declined, he decided to start his own club where such topics could be discussed. At the first meeting of his new club, the answer was decided after a four-hour debate: the cost would be 5 pounds a pound.
Mulgrew describes his club as follows: “I think everyone likes a good argument as long as it doesn’t get too serious or too personal. Humour is important and our club allows people to practice their skills in a friendly atmosphere. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much a zebra costs or how many whiskers a cat has to have before it can be said to have a proper set of whiskers. These discussions allow you to try and build a good argument without any ramifications if your arguments aren’t accepted by other people. Practice is good for all.”