In the summer of 1989, I left London and returned to Vancouver where I renewed my relationship with the Pitt Art Gallery. During one gallery visit I pitched the idea of eating a slice of human testicle in the gallery. The selection committee approved the idea and suggested that I make the party snack in the art gallery, and then walk into downtown Vancouver to eat it in public.
However, just as the event started, it was stopped by the police.
The picture below shows two detectives talking about my display. On the table in front of me are my snack supplies and my sign.
Moments after the above photo was taken, the detectives escorted me to the back of the gallery and charged me with the crime of “corrupting public morals.” The picture below shows me looking for my identification card.
After charging me with the offence, the detectives seized the testicle and left the gallery.
Days later, the BCCLA (British Columbia Civil Liberties Association) issued this statement on my behalf:
Any society which values democracy, autonomy and truth cannot accept the censorship of ideas, regardless of how hateful or hard they are to hear. Certainly feminists are entitled to express their views on the exploitation of women, pro-lifers their opinions on the sanctity of human life, and Mr. Gibson on the moral irrelevance of the difference in species. And just as feminists can display devices of bondage and pro-lifers dismembered fetuses, Mr. Gibson should be able to display a legally obtained testicle. To ban this display is an unjustified restriction on the communication of ideas.
A few weeks later the government dropped the charge because, as the Georgia Straight newspaper explained:
Gibson, you will remember, was charged in mid-July after threatening to eat a slice of human testicle on a piece of bread. However, the government has now dropped the charges because it could not prove the testicle slice was human.
Thus, no court in the land will be able to test the validity of those charges. You could say that, in not charging Gibson with corrupting public morals, the government proved it had no balls.
As soon as the charges were dropped, I restarted the event by sending this information to the news media:
On Friday, 22 September 1989, office workers on their lunch break will be able to watch artist Rick Gibson eat an open-face sandwich of bread, lettuce, ham and a slice of human testicle on the steps of the Vancouver Law Courts.
Gibson tried to do a similar performance in July 1989 at the Pitt Art Gallery. The police however, stopped that performance and charged him with publicly exhibiting a disgusting show. This charge was later dropped because the police forensic laboratory was unable to tell the difference between human and other mammal testicular tissues.
“The police have proven my point; it is meat, and therefore legal to eat,” says Gibson.
However, when I arrived at the designated starting point, I was met by the same detectives who had arrested me at my first attempt.
One of the detectives warned me not to eat the slice of human testicle in public, otherwise he would arrest me. But I felt that he was bluffing, so I started walking towards the courthouse steps.
While I walked a friend took pictures of a police officer filming me.
Shortly after arriving at the front of the Law Courts, I mounted its steps and ate the meat snack.
The performance ended minutes later when I removed my sign in front of a civil-rights lawyer and the detectives.
Then I went home.
Many years have now passed since I did that performance and I have never been arrested or charged with a crime. Therefore, cannibalism is legal in Vancouver.