Lane student takes on animal rights through veganism, protests

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By Maria Murczek

Nicole Gianni, Div. 171, sits outside of Macy’s on Michigan Ave. wearing a faux fur coat covered in fake blood, shouting “fur is murder.” She protests weekly for the creatures of the earth with no voice: animals.

Gianni protests with organizations like Mercy For Animals, a non-profit animal advocacy organization that believes non-human animals are irreplaceable individuals who have morally significant interests and, hence, rights.

Gianni participates in protests because she thinks it’s a great way to bring attention to a matter which people often look over. She has been a part of peaceful protests against KFC, Ringling Brothers Circus, McDonalds, the horse drawn carriage industry, the slaughter of dogs and cats in Korea, and the fur industry.

Although peaceful, she goes all-out at protests. She wore a full body elephant costume in a prison uniform outside of Ringling Brothers shows.

In February, she plans to fly out to Miami to protest in front of Seaquarium.

“When I was seven years old, my mom wanted to take us to Sea World. Through some online research, she found out that hundreds of whales, dolphins, and sea lions have died in the brutal captures or in the chlorinated tanks. Needless to say, we didn’t go to Sea World (we went to see wild whales). Ever since, I have been militant against marine parks, Miami Seaquarium in particular.”

Lolita, a killer whale currently residing in Seaquarium, has been in a tank merely one-and-a-half times her size for 39 years, which is illegal according to the USDA.

In Miami, she plans on participating in two protests. On this same trip she also plans to host a showing of the award-winning documentary about Lolita the whale called “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment”.

Gianni currently maintains two websites, including one dedicated to saving Lolita.

“The websites I write and maintain are www.SaveLolita.com and http://www.freewebs.com/let_toki_go_free/. Between the two sites which have only been up for 8 months, I’ve had 25,000 visits.”

Because of her animal rights activism, Gianni has even encountered celebrities.

“On my 16th birthday, I went to a McDonalds protest with comedian Andy Dick (who I find hilarious). We were protesting the methods McDonalds uses to kill their chickens, asking that they use “control atmosphere killing,” which is more humane. I also adopted a rat from the producer of Pulp Fiction & Kill Bill, Lawrence Bender.”

Gianni’s decision to become more active was accompanied by her change to veganism.

“I went vegan about four years ago after seeing a 10 minute video online called Meet Your Meat about the cruel, unethical factory farming industry,” she said. “Ingrid, one of my rescued chickens, was also one of my main inspirations because she was such a gentle and beautiful little animal.”

Veganism is different from vegetarianism. Vegans choose to avoid the use or consumption of animal products. According to VeganAction.org, “while vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.”

Because of her diet, Gianni said she feels more compassionate towards all animals. She owns and fosters several pets.

“Currently, I have two rats (Guinness & Ripley), a dog (Oscar), two bunnies (Phoenix & Bella), and five fish (Maya, Hyak, Heidi, Angel, & Odysseus), all of which were rescued. I’m fostering two baby rats this week (unnamed) and I just adopted out two other rats (Little Chef & Sweet Pea).”

Four of her five fish were originally going to be fed to larger fish, so she rescued them. Her fifth fish, a goldfish, has her own story.

“I found [Maya] at a Petsmart lying at the bottom of a heavily overcrowded tank,” she said. “I walked up to the tank and thought she was dead. Her entire tail, half of her abdomen, dorsal fin, and pectoral fins had all been eaten off by her starving tank-mates. I ended up buying her. She would’ve been dead in just minutes at the

store, but now she is coming up on being one year old. Everything but her tail has regenerated.”

Gianni fosters several animals after finding them on Craigslist, until she finds them loving homes. If the animals are reasonably priced (or free), in a bad situation, or close in proximity, she tries her best to take them in.

In the past, Gianni has also rescued nine chickens. Their living conditions are safe and comfortable.

“The chickens always lived in a large walk-in pen in our house with heat lamps, nesting boxes, and cat toys to play with.”

The pens are cleaned one to two times a week, preventing any odor. Gianni’s parents are very supportive of her, and her sister, Gina, 13, often helps.

Gianni has visited two slaughterhouses and witnessed the atrocious cruelties chickens are subjected to.

“Their beaks are painfully seared off, they are housed in cages the size of a sheet of printer paper for their entire lives, and are often scalded to death.”

Gianni said that people have a responsibility to care for the planet and animals on it.

“That doesn’t mean everyone has to go work at a shelter or donate their life savings, but simple things like eating meatless meals one day a week can really help.”

Instead of feeling angry towards the popularity of Popeye’s at Lane, Gianni said she rather put her energy into raising awareness: making phone calls, volunteering, and writing letters.

Having eaten meat for 12 years, Gianni is not critical of those who still do use animal products.

“When I found out what was going on behind closed doors, I decided I would make a change to help these animals. If people discover the truth about these industries, they would almost all certainly make more humane choices. Until you’re educated, it’s not your fault.”

Therefore, she encourages all to become more involved and educated.

“I encourage people who want to get more involved to sign up to volunteer with Mercy for Animals, an awesome Chicago-based non-profit farm animal welfare organization. They can also visit www.MercyForAnimals.org to request a free vegetarian starter kit.”

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