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A vegan activist, hatched

[Medill Reports: Chicago]

Doris, Danita, and Sweet Pea were waiting in their coop as Robert Grillo walked down the backyard stairs of his house, trailed by Elba, his dove. He opened a gate leading to the coop, and introduced his three hens. At Grillo's prompting, I petted Danita, her black-with-hints-of-emerald feathers spellbindingly soft.

"You just see how simple it is for them to have their needs met and feel loved and cared for," Grillo said. "It feels really good to be able to give that back to an animal that all we've had is a relationship of taking."

Grillo rescued the birds from a chick-hatching program in 2009, a "kind of chance" action in a year that would go on to be most integral in his life.

"Their value is based on the extent to which they're a utility to humans and other than that [they] have no value," Grillo said later in the kitchen of his North Side home, holding Doris in his lap. "But by showing people something completely different, you're challenging that belief."

Challenging one of the fundamental beliefs of mainstream society has become Grillo's mission.

Also in 2009, the year that he went vegan, Grillo founded Free from Harm, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to promoting animal rights and a vegan diet. (The organization's 501(c)3 status is still pending but nearly complete, Grillo said.)

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