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Fighting for the defenseless in Philadelphia

Meet Romina Giel, the Humane League’s new Philadelphia grassroots coordinator.
Romina Giel, the Humane League’s new Philadelphia grassroots coordinator. (Provided)

To folks not in tune with the animal rights movement and veganism or plant-based eating, it might be a surprise to learn that Philadelphia stands out in these industries. With organizations like the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)—that are fighting for a no-kill Philly—and vegetarian/vegan restaurants slowly lining streets around the city, this is a great city for people looking to minimize animal cruelty.

It just got even better, with The Humane League appointing a new Philadelphia Grassroots Coordinator, Romina Giel.

Metro spoke to Giel about her new position and her plans for animal activism in Philly.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I’m 25 and originally from New York City. I attended The New School and earned my degree in Urban Studies and Visual Arts. I’ve been living in Philly for the past two years, but spent many of my teen years here in the suburbs. I live with my partner, Mike, and our pup, Bones, who is the best. I started with The Humane League one year ago as a volunteer, then became an intern and am now so happy to be working full-time with THL.

Why do you think the Humane League chose Philadelphia as a one its locations?

The Humane League actually began in Philadelphia in 2005, so Philly is unique in that some of our volunteers have been with us since day one. Apart from that, Philly is also a vegan hub. So many people are vegan or vegetarian and care a lot about the issues surrounding animal consumption, so there is a need for animal rights groups, like THL, to lead events and provide opportunities for the vegan community to stay connected and feel empowered because they really are making a difference for animals.

Veganism and plant-based eating appear to be big pieces of the work the Humane League does. How does Philadelphia rank, in your mind, in terms of vegan and plant-based options and accessibility?

Veganism is definitely a simple and effective way to advocate against animal cruelty and live for what you believe in, and in Philadelphia, I find that there are so many people who do just that. The vegan community in Philadelphia is vast, and that has increased the demand for vegan options around the city. The opening of Wiz Kid, Goldie, and a second Blackbird location in under one year is a perfect example. Supply and demand is real. And with that being said, being vegan or vegetarian is very doable no matter where you live. There are so many sources online that will guide individuals on this.

Where are some of your favorite vegan places to eat in the city?

I’m a big fan of Bar Bombon and the falafel at Mama's Vegetarian. Other places that offer some of my favorite vegan options are Philly Style Bagels and Front Street Cafe.

Can you tell us about some of the recent campaigns the Humane League has been running?

We are campaigning to see Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and more, commit to a meaningful welfare policy for their chickens. Currently, the chickens in their supply chain are crammed inside dirty sheds with no natural source of light. They are bred to grow so grotesquely large and, if they make it to slaughter, they are then brutally killed. Sometimes electrically shocked, scalded or by having their throats slit, all while fully conscious. This is unnecessary and unacceptable cruelty, and we are giving Darden the opportunity to make a meaningful change that could impact the lives of millions of chickens.

What are you up to these days?

On November 9 THL is having a nationwide “Day of Action” against Darden. This day will be the initiation of entering a new phase of the campaign. We are disappointed that Darden has been unresponsive, but we will not stop leading the charge in ensuring a higher welfare policy for chickens. On Nov. 9 I will be leading a protest in front of the Capital Grille in Center City, and earlier that day we will be leafleting Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse to spread awareness. All are welcome.

What does a Grassroots Coordinator do?

As a Grassroots Coordinator, is it my job to lead our activist network and THL’s program work in Philly. This means that I organize protests, work parties, vegan drinks and more.  Work parties are where activists get together and do actions like write letters to CEOs and shareholders of the companies we are campaigning against. Vegan drinks are monthly social events and an opportunity for the veg community of Philly to come together and meet others who share their interest in helping animals in a friendly, fun and inclusive environment. I also work closely with our Team Humane League captain, Lia Belardo, to fundraise for animals through athletic challenges and events. This is a fun opportunity and open to everyone of all ages and all levels of athletic capability as well.

What will a typical day on the job — if such a thing exists — look like for you?

Every day is different. That’s the fun part about this job. One day I will be focusing on social media and events, and the next day I will be leafleting, planning, or protesting alongside many other activists. And at the end of the day, to think that everything I do is for the animals, I feel incredibly fortunate to have been chosen for this role.

How can folks get involved with you and the Humane League in Philadelphia?

I would like to invite anyone who is even slightly curious about vegetarianism, veganism, animal activism, or environmentalism to reach out to me. Even if you just want to learn more about THL or would like to become a volunteer or an intern, please reach out! If you have limited time, there are still ways to get involved and that would be through our Fast Action Network (FAN) and the FANbot. My email is rgiel@thehumaneleague.org and I’m always happy to answer questions and meet new people.

To learn more, visit thehumaneleague.org.