Urge the University of California To Enact an Anti-Cruelty Policy Student Slaughtered a Chicken in an Art Class

On February 12, 2003, a student in Professor Kevin Radley’s “New Genres” art class, in the Department of Art Practice on the University of California Berkeley campus, butchered a chicken, delivering at least two blows with a meat cleaver. In response to UPC’s call for an investigation, the UC-Berkeley Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) produced a Report on May 20, 2003. Without any supporting evidence, and contrary to the student eyewitness who told the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy that the butchery was “terrible,” the committee found that “the chicken was handled in a humane manner by the student prior to its death” and was subsequently “cooked and eaten.”

The committee cited the 2000 Report of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Panel on Euthanasia, regarding decapitation, to support its finding that “there are no significant animal welfare concerns associated with the manner in which the animal was handled and euthanized.” According to the committee, the AVMA says that “decapitation without prior sedation or anesthesia is an acceptable euthanasia method for birds that are intended for human food.”

What the AVMA Report actually says is that decapitation as a form of euthanasia (humane death) “requires training and skill.” Observing that the “interpretation of the presence of electrical activity in the brain following decapitation has created controversy” about the humaneness of decapitation even when properly performed, the AVMA considers decapitation only “conditionally acceptable if performed correctly."

Nothing in the ACUC report suggests that any of these AVMA stipulations were met by the student, or that Professor Radley couldn’t have prevented the killing, conducted while the student was feeding “fried chicken and egg salad to the class” in an “autobiographical” presentation about “the nature of the link between food sources and processed foods in contemporary culture.”

On September 9, 2003, UPC requested records under the California Public Records Act relating to the incident, including a necropsy report on the cause of death of the chicken, who, when stuffed in a box by Professor Radley, may not even have been dead yet. We were informed on October 24, 2003 that no further records existed.

What Can I Do?
  • Urge the President of the University of California to enact a campus-wide Anti-Animal Cruelty Academic Policy specifically prohibiting the use of animals in art or performance. In addition, urge the Chancellor of the University of California Berkeley campus to enact the same policy on the Berkeley campus. Penalties should include student reprimand, suspension, expulsion, and failure to graduate. Faculty who encourage or allow the use of animals in art or performance should be subject to disciplinary measures including reprimand and suspension. Crimes that violate state anti-cruelty laws should be referred immediately to the county sheriff’s office and county prosecutor’s office. Contact:

    Dr. Robert C. Dynes, President
    Office of the President, No. 12113
    University of California
    1111 Franklin Street
    Oakland, CA 94607-5200
    Phone: 510-987-9074
    Fax: 510-987-9086
    Website: www.ucop.edu

    Dr. Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor
    Office of the Chancellor
    University of California-Berkeley
    200 California Hall #1500
    Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
    Phone: 510-642-7464
    Fax: 510-643-5499