UM students horrified by bunny butchering stunt

ORONO, Maine -- Some shocked University of Maine students and a faculty member stopped a classmate from demonstrating how to butcher and skin a live rabbit on Saturday during their course on documentary filmmaking.

"When he whipped out the knife, people started screaming, crying, running out of the room," said student Chris Michaud. "It was kind of surreal."

The rabbit's close call happened during final presentations for the Camden International Film Festival Course in the Arthur Hill Auditorium in Barrows Hall. About 60 students and one professor were present when senior English major Dane Bolding walked to the front of the class after lunch with the rabbit in a box and a plan.

"I feel like documentary films often put a lot in front of us," Bolding said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "I guess that my intention was to really put something in front of the class."

Bolding said that he has taught himself how to butcher and skin animals because he wants to know where his food comes from. He also said that people eat meat but don't want to know the violence behind how animals are slaughtered and how the food is prepared.

"I feel that we try and hide all of our ugliness," Bolding said.

According to Dean of Students Robert Dana, the matter has been referred to University of Maine Public Safety, the Dean of Student's Office and the University of Maine Conduct Officer. Bolding was scheduled to meet with an associate dean Tuesday afternoon and likely would face "educational and developmental sanctions" for his actions, Dana said.

Developmental sanctions are designed to help people understand about appropriate times and places to make a point, the dean said.

"I'm sure it would have been very shocking and upsetting," Dana said of the incident. "It's unacceptable. It was highly unexpected, and really out of skew for an academic classroom. No matter what his intent was, the outcome was very, very upsetting."

School officials are reviewing the matter to see if the university's code of conduct was violated.

"As of now, it does not appear that there will be any criminal charges," Dana said.

Any university sanctions that Bolding may face will be private, the dean said.

Bolding, who has won a university award for his poetry, said he meant for what happened in the class that day to be educational.

"We can have a liberal institution where we can serve dead meat. Where you can order dead cats and dissect them in the laboratory," he said. "For me, it was strange to get as harsh of a reaction and to feel so condemned in a liberal institution. I didn't intend to harm anyone."

Michaud said he could understand Bolding's intentions.

"I can't fault him. I guess his point was pretty valid," Michaud said. "It's just -- time and place, dude, time and place."

But Bolding's actions crossed a line, according to Michael Grillo, an associate professor, who was team-teaching the course along with two other faculty members.

"I'm feeling betrayed by this," Grillo said Monday. "This has shaken us all, incredibly. I've taught for 25 years. I've never seen anything like this."

Grillo said Bolding had announced before his presentation that anyone squeamish might want to leave the room.

"And I did, because, honestly, in the documentary film course, we've seen some films that are a little bit rough, so I and several other students left," Grillo said.

Bolding had not informed professors what he was planning for the final presentation in the course, which was structured around the Camden International Film Festival, held this year from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, Grillo said. Also, Bolding had missed the previous class, during which students presented the first draft of their projects.

All the presentations were meant to be inspired by what they had learned and seen at the four-day film festival, and most students made short documentary videos. A couple, including Bolding, told teachers that they were going to share presentations with the class.

So when Bolding put on a pair of rubber gloves and placed a tarp over a table before taking the rabbit out of a box, course instructor Mike Scott of New Media was unprepared.

"He held up a knife, held it to the rabbit's throat," Scott said Tuesday. "I basically said no, not in this class."

While some students ran out of the classroom at that point, others were yelling at Bolding to stop what he was doing, according to witnesses.

"It got so intense that he was like, 'Fine, I won't do it,'" Michaud said of Bolding.

Bolding then put down the rabbit and the knife.

Grillo said that after the incident, he pulled Bolding into the hallway and gave him a piece of his mind.

"I told him that this was one of the most reprehensible acts I've ever seen," he said.

One woman in the class, who witnessed the presentation but didn't want to be identified, said the class was a "complete and horrible mess" after Bolding's actions and that some women were calling for him to be expelled.

"What did this have to do with documentary films?" she asked. "This wasn't a class on cadavers."

Bolding said he had thought of presenting the rabbit butchering as a documentary video, but didn't have time. He also said he was very hungry, and even starving, during the Saturday class.

"For a couple of weeks, I didn't have any money and I couldn't eat," he said.

Bolding said he had just bought the rabbit from a local farmer and was looking forward to eating it after he killed it and skinned it in class.

But after his presentation was stopped, several women in the class pooled their money together and bought the rabbit from Bolding for what he had paid for it.

"I don't mind that the animal is still living," Bolding said. "I took that $10 and got some potatoes and milk. I made a vegetarian soup."

Copyright (c) 2010, Bangor Daily News, Maine

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What's next; having her

What's next; having her barred, Tron style?

Steve Bulger's picture


for the follow-up story that describes how the traumatized women were so distraught that they had to leave class, get some fresh air, and meet later for hamburgers and wings.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture true. true.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ya had me hooked until you

Ya had me hooked until you said it tastes like chicken. Everything tastes like chicken but chicken. The parrot sez catnip tastes like chicken.
Please excuse my rant. AARRGHH!!! (Man, that felt good; haven't done that in ages).

 's picture

the rule of three

you cannot survive more then
3 min's with out air
3 days without water
3 weeks without food

 's picture


what a stupid kid,... I don't mind people hunting.. and I certainly don't mind eating..but i don't like watching people kill animals...especially in a class room environment ...and the teachers excuse LOL....he wasn't here the day they were handing out brains

 's picture

Perhaps he wanted to create vegitarians

This student should have considered walking thru a Decoster's farm with a hidden camera instead. I had a girlfriend who is a medical doctor. She became interested in biology as a child while helping her grandfather prepair a rabbit for dinner. We are meat eaters. As such we should all be exposed to such a presentation.
In the past, meat was served on special occasions, like Sunday dinner- hollidays... meat was just too expensive. With industrial farming, and the relatively inexpensive products being offered, we have lost respect for the life that is packaged in celophane.
This young man should have discussed his project with his professor beforhand- no doubt. But, the idea itself isn't that bad. Too bad he didn't clear it with his profs properly. I hope he doesn't get in trouble- or recieves a failing grade. Shock!? Perhaps we should all recieve some to wake us up!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

As is often the case, your

As is often the case, your post is spot on, Ben.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It's o.k. to abhort a fetus,

It's o.k. to abhort a fetus, though.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"When you don't use your

"When you don't use your brain, feces oozes out."
Oh, same thing that happens when you open your mouth.
See what I meant the other day about engaging in the battle of wits unarmed? You don't learn do you. You are such a target rich environment. Stick around. You make it all fun.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good post, MO4...What was

Good post, MO4...What was supper, by the way?.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What would YOU like to talk

What would YOU like to talk about; homosexuality?

 's picture


Are we really this pussified in the U.S. that we can't even kill a rabbit and eat it? Animals aren't born in cellophane wrappers folks. The meat you buy at the store and the shoes you wear were all animals at one time. People would appreciate their food and clothing much more if they knew where it really came from.

Ron Dexter's picture

Good Idea - Bad Execution

No pun intended there.

I think he makes a very valid point of just how ignorant many Americans are about where their food comes from. I don't believe the school has any right to impose any kind of sanction or punishment on him. To the "women" that wanted him expelled, I would have to say grow up - not everything in this world is butterflies and rainbows.

Good luck in the future Dane.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

So much for attempting to be

So much for attempting to be creative.

Ron Dexter's picture


No, really, I didn't mean it as a pun. I couldn't think of a better word at the moment.

 's picture


This guy sounds like a total nut! I think he may need some professional help. Its one thing to buy a rabbit from a farmer and kill it and eat it on your own...but to try to slaughter one in front of a class?? WTH get a lilfe man...


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