"Animals are an integral part of my life. They are very healing. They are forgiving and honest."
-- Tippi Hedren, winner of 24th Genesis Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award
This past weekend, the 24th Genesis Awards in Beverly Hills honored many women and men in the news and entertainment industry who have taken a stand to protect animals, expose cruelty, and challenge the practice of factory farming. The awards ceremony is produced by the Hollywood office of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Films like Up and The Cove received awards, animated series like Family Guy and talk shows like The Ellen Degeneres Show were recognized for their efforts to bring greater awareness of animal rights into the media and into our perceptions. Lists of the winners can be found in the Los Angeles Times and The Wrap, but I'd like to make special mention here of the women of the awards, including Lifetime Achievement honoree Tippi Hedren and HLN Emmy-winning journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, who was recognized for a series of outstanding news segments.
For me, it was an evening of awakening. The nominees, presenters, committee members of the Humane Society, and all in attendance, had a true and palpable passion for protecting, respecting and loving animals - all of which educated and inspired me.
I have to admit that I didn't know that much about Tippi Hedren before the evening. But when I heard Tippi speak, I heard the voice of a wise woman with years of experience caring for, loving and protecting animals.
Tippi, who is maybe best known for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, was honored with the 24th Genesis Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award. I learned that she has spent more than 40 years dedicated to the protection of animals. Her love for animals all started with lions in the late '60s while shooting a film in Africa. Ten years later, while filming Roar, in which she starred alongside her daughter Melanie Griffith, and 50 big cats, her eyes were opened to the dangers of keeping big cats as pets. As a result, she started the Shambhala Preserve, an 83-acre wildlife refuge in California, to provide a home to captive-born exotic felines, all who of whom are cast-offs from private owners, zoos and circuses. Tippi, who recently turned 80, has been an outspoken voice against cruelty to animals and has lobbied Congress on the issue on many occasions - with success! She is a woman of extraordinary energy, some of which I wonder comes from the cats she cares for.
Jane Velez-Mitchell of HLN is another warrior woman advocating for animal rights. Wow, what a powerhouse of a voice. Listening to her reminded me of what it must have been like for women listening to Gloria Steinem in the 60s. Nominated for multiple segments on Headline News exposing stories of animal cruelty, Jane took the stage at the Genesis Awards and reminded all of us in the audience, "What we are doing is changing the world!" Then with a rousing call that made me want to jump on board, she proclaimed, "Together we can do this!"
A few other eye-opening conversations took place on the red carpet. I spoke with actress Elaine Hendrix who is on the Board of Directors for the national non-profit organization In Defense of Animals. Elaine is working on a campaign to change people's thinking about pets. "Here in the United States, animals are classified as property," she explained, "That's what our laws state. So we are trying to shift that belief. Ultimately through laws, but first through a grassroots movement." The organization is campaigning to shift our concept of animals from pets to companions.
The fact that dogs are in shelters is not because of dog problems. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the reason is because of people problems. And if people could realize that they are not getting a bad dog if they are rescuing it, that would be great... It's like saying that any guy or any gal who has ever been divorced should never be circulated again. If we said this, people would say "Whoa!" So how come we have the double standard?
Great point Tamar!
I started the evening as someone sympathetic to animal rights and welfare, and left the evening feeling enlightened on the issues and inspired to be much more of an advocate.
There was some great advice and simple suggestions offered by these women to help be part of the solution to protect, respect, and celebrate animals. The first and most important is to recognize that the choices we make every day have an affect on the treatment of animals. The following are some choices we can consider.
3 Ways You can be Part of the Solution
- Consider your food choices. Eating meat and poultry perpetuates the demand for factory farming. This is not suggesting everyone needs to be a vegetarian or vegan, but cutting back on your consumption of animal products can make a real difference.
- Consider your cosmetic choices. On the label of products you can see whether or not they have been tested on animals. Look for the cruelty free symbol and vote with your dollars. Don't support companies that test on animals.
- Consider adopting from a shelter. Buying from a pet store puts you at risk for buying an animal that was raised in a puppy mill. Puppy mills are notorious for the mistreatment of animals. People think that something is wrong with pets in shelters, but actually they are most likely there due to abandonment by an owner, divorce, or another people reason.
Other women of Hollywood contributing their voice to speak up for animal protection who were in attendance at the event included: Kristen Bell, Emily Deschanel, Ginnifer Goodwin, Teri Hatcher, Keely Brosnan, Kelly Carlson, Nicole Lapin, Maria Menounos, Jessalyn Gilsig, Wendie Malick, and Jennifer Taylor. You can see a full list here.
The event was recorded for future broadcast on Animal Planet. Air dates are scheduled for April 24th and 25th.
All photos by Lee Schneider except for photo of Jane Velez-Mitchell.