Illustration by Jesse Reklaw

SOME ANIMAL-RIGHTS ACTIVISTS are calling Gabriel Holt "a terrorist and a pervert," but the Reed College senior says he just wants to teach people about responsible eating.

Holt planned to lead a chicken-slaughtering class—and a subsequent barbecue—at his Eastmoreland home on Sunday, January 24. He sent out a campus-wide email promoting the event, with the title "Chokin' the Chicken."

Members of the Animal Defense League (ADL) were not amused. They publicized the event on the Portland Indymedia website, including the address of the off-campus house where Holt lives.

Somebody stole his chickens the night before the class. But they stole the wrong birds: Holt and his roommate also kept four egg-laying chickens, two of which had been rescued from a neglectful owner. For the slaughter, says Holt, he had arranged to get two old hens from a local free-range poultry farm. "The other option was for the farm to kill them," he says.

When he woke up on Sunday, Holt went out to feed his chickens and discovered the theft. He decided to cancel the class. Holt had already received some angry emails.

"One message said, 'Go kill yourself and eat your intestines,'" he recalls.

Matt Rossell of In Defense of Animals takes a more measured stance, but says that the issue of "which chickens were stolen" is not important. "Why do you consider some chickens beloved pets," he asks, "when you're prepared to slaughter 'spent hens' the next day?"

Rossell says he sent Holt an email when he heard about the class, asking if the participants "would have the skill, the training, and the ability to humanely kill the chickens." Holt never responded.

Chrissie Zaerpoor, co-owner of Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill, says it's possible the killing would have been humane: "There's very good instruction available in books or online. But the key to handling an animal humanely is deliberateness and care."

Rossell notes that many vegans and vegetarians think "humane killing" is an oxymoron. But it's not all black and white: Holt says he has many vegan friends.

"They were really disappointed with this whole thing," he says of the uproar about the class.

And what about the chickens that were stolen? "I really hope they didn't release them," says Holt. "I'm sure they'd be dead by now."

If you have information on the whereabouts of Holt's chickens, email news@portlandmercury.com.