Baring it all for UBC bunnies

Nude activists assembled in downtown Vancouver Oct. 24, to protest the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) use of animals in their research.

The protesters, representing both UBC-based Stop UBC Animal Research (STOP) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), used body paint to appear as mice, cats, rabbits and monkeys, and peered out from cages.

“Our goal was to reach a large audience, and to educate them about what UBC is doing to animals behind closed doors,” said Brian Vincent, one of the founders of STOP.  “We thought [the nude protest] would be a visually stunning way to draw attention to this issue.”

Vincent said he was pleased with the positive reaction of the public, as well as the media coverage they received. He called the protest a success.

“[The protest] draws attention not only to what is going on inside UBC labs, but indeed what is going on in laboratories across Canada at many of the university campuses,” PETA spokesperson Alka Chandna said.

The day following the protest, UBC administration, which has expressed concern about anti-animal research activism several times in the last year,  sent an email to all staff, students and faculty warning them of the organization.

The email, a copy of which was obtained by the Charlatan, urges people to take caution when dealing with individuals from STOP, asking them to “remain vigilant” and to “familiarize yourself with university resources that could help mitigate potentially unpleasant situations.”

“It’s important to remember that UBC prides itself on being revered in the Vancouver community,” Vincent said.  “They don’t want anything to tarnish that reputation.”

Vincent said the email was just an attempt to deflect attention away from the ongoing animal testing conducted at the university.

In addition, Vincent said UBC has not supplied STOP with further information, despite two requests.

“UBC is being very secretive about their whole operation,” Vincent said.

“If [UBC] is proud of [the animal testing], then they should be proud to let the public know what is going on,” Chandna said.

By contrast, UBC believes that they are doing no harm, according to the university administration.

“The university works closely with researchers to ensure they follow national humane standards and minimize the number of animals in their studies,” said Scott Macrae, UBC’s executive director of public affairs.

“Sometimes there is no alternative option to animal use,” Macrae said.

Chandna said as long as a large majority of the population remains unaware of the treatment and usage of animals in universities, animal rights efforts could not move forward.

“We need to challenge that status quo,” she said. “We need to gain transparency and get accountability. Only then will we see change.”