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Three Students Rebel Against Slaughterhouse Assignment

November 7, 1987

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Three Harvard University art students have rebelled against an assignment to adopt a chicken, watch it be slaughtered, cook and eat the bird, then use the bones to make a sculpture.

″It would be like a pet, and to take your pet and have it killed is not a comfortable thing for me,″ one of the rebels, senior Hannah Gittleman, said Friday at the university’s Visual and Environmental Studies Department.

Ritsuko Taho, who teaches Fundamentals of Sculpture, told 17 students this week to adopt a live chicken for a day before taking it to a slaughterhouse , then watch it be processed before making a meal and then a sculpture.

The lecturer said Thursday that the assignment was intended to reduce the distance between art and object.

″Because they will have eaten it, the chicken will be part of (the students’) bodies,″ she said. ″This experience will expand their imagination and understanding.″

Gittleman and two other students took their chickens, which Taho provided, to an animal shelter. The whole episode made her decide not to eat chicken until ″I can kill one,″ Gittleman said.

Leah Zuch, executive director of the Cambridge Committee for Responsible Research, an animal rights group, said she thought the project was ″disgusting.″

″That’s an awful way to think of art,″ she said. ″I think it’s detrimental to art.″

Junior Alexander Kahn, after witnessing the killing of his chicken Thursday, said, ″It’s a very interesting process to watch. It’s something you don’t usually see.″

″I’m just trying to sort out how I feel about watching this chicken lose its life″ because he had never seen an animal die, Kahn said.

Gitanjali S. Dodner said she didn’t mind the assignment, except for the smell of the slaughterhouse, because ″it didn’t really bother me to kill something to eat.″

Dodner kept the chicken in her dorm room before she had it killed Thursday.

″It’s better to eat something that you had a relationship with because you respect the fact that it was alive,″ she said.

″It’s more than just making a sculpture from chicken bones,″ Kahn said. ″Some people went through a very emotional experience and that’s going to reflect itself in the final project.″

Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies Department has no classes Friday, and Taho could not be reached to discuss whether her students were required to complete the assignment.

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