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Activists gather at Wall Centre to protest animal experiments

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver

Animal activists stage a visually disturbing, provocative protest at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel where the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animals Science symposium was being held Sunday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Animal activists stage a visually disturbing, provocative protest at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel where the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animals Science symposium was being held Sunday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

The sidewalk outside the Sheraton Wall Centre on Burrard Street resembled a scene from a horror movie late Sunday morning as protestors simulated a human dissection to raise awareness about an animal research conference hosted at the hotel.

But the director of Stop UBC Animal Research rejects any notion his group's provocative display - which presented a woman splayed on a homemade operation table, fake blood splattered across her body - went too far to get the public's attention.

"If anyone is terrorized, imagine having (an) animal on the table being essentially torched. To me, that's terrorizing a living being," director Brian Vincent said.

University of B.C. sociology professor Rima Wilkes said groups like Vincent's wouldn't find much traction without such aggressive displays.

"It's kind of a catch-22 because they have to be provocative to get coverage, but then the coverage - or at least the public's reaction - will be negative."

For two hours about 25 protesters gathered around the bloodied woman with signs reading "Shame on Sheraton for hosting animal cruelty symposium."

Sheraton representatives were not available for comment after Vincent's group asked the hotel to cancel the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science's convention.

CALAS president Michelle Gillespie said she respects the protestors' point of view, but her organization was holding the conference to train specialists to treat lab animals "humanely, compassionately and professionally at all times."

Vincent, however, said that's like teaching parents to beat their children in a humane fashion.