To the Rescue! Gala celebrates work to end farm animal suffering, even as new U.N. report says industrial farming, other human actions are driving animals to extinction
A new United Nations report out today foretells a dire future for Planet Earth: as many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, mainly due to human actions, including development, the cutting of down forests and exhaustion of natural resources, and poaching. More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. As a consequence, animals like the Asian elephant could be gone from the wild in a generation, and more than 40 percent of amphibian species and more than a third of all marine mammals could be wiped out forever.
This news, as shocking as it is, does not surprise us. At the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, we’re working across the spectrum to stop and reverse the damage from these and other threats to animals’ survival. Around the globe, in more than 50 countries, we are making the case every day for coexistence with animals and the preservation of habitat, rescuing animals in need, and pushing public policy approaches to protect animals from unbridled development, destruction of habitat, poaching and the unsustainable and wasteful systems of industrial agriculture that are responsible for so much animal misery.
Everyone can do something in their own lives to help improve the lives of farm animals and reduce the human footprint on Earth. That’s why we’re encouraging people around the world to eat lower on the food chain, and to reduce their consumption of animal products. Beyond getting politically active, beyond pushing for corporate change, and beyond supporting the public education work of groups like ours, we must harness the power of the fork and the plate to achieve our ambitious goals on this urgent frontier of our work.
With my colleagues, I delivered just this message over the weekend at our annual To the Rescue! Gala in Los Angeles, where we raised $1 million that will benefit the HSUS and HSI Farm Animal Protection teams in their work to end factory farming and improve farm animal lives. The Gala’s proceeds provide tremendous support to our ongoing campaigns, and the event itself gives us a chance to honor a few individuals who have shown a deep commitment to our work.
In addition to celebrating our farm animal work, we recognized a number of distinguished awardees who have helped transform the lives of companion animals, including street dogs and those trapped in the dog meat trade, wildlife and animals used for cosmetics testing.
I was proud to present our Lifetime Achievement Award to Wallis Annenberg, chairman of the board, CEO and president of the Annenberg Foundation. Wallis has been a valuable partner of the HSUS in our efforts to protect wildlife, and to extend pet care services to Angelenos through our Pets for Life program. In 2017, she launched a unique, one-of-a-kind project, the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, where people from all walks of life can learn about our unique relationship with pets. The Annenberg PetSpace helps ease the burden on the over-taxed shelter systems of Los Angeles city and Los Angeles County by bringing dogs and cats from their care centers to their new PetSpace home, a facility equipped with a health and fitness center, a full-time veterinarian, an animal behavior specialist and a staff dedicated to providing the highest standards of professional care. Wallis was presented the award by actress, producer and businesswoman Priscilla Presley, a longtime friend of our work.
Our Voice for the Animals award this year went to Grammy-nominated pop superstar Kesha. The singer, who was Humane Society International’s first Global Ambassador, has spoken out on numerous animal protection issues that the HSUS and HSI work on every day including cosmetic testing on animals, shark finning, the Canadian seal hunt, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and the inhumane treatment of street dogs. Geezer Butler, founding member, bassist and lyricist from the groundbreaking heavy metal band Black Sabbath, presented her with the award.
The Humane Legacy Award was given posthumously to Justice William A. Newsom III, the former justice of the California Court of Appeal, for his lifetime support of animal protection. In 1986, Newsom co-founded the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation, launching a decades-long effort to protect these magnificent cats, and in 1990, he spearheaded Proposition 117, which established a permanent moratorium on hunting mountain lions in California. His work paved the way for dozens more statewide initiatives for animals in later years.
We were joined at the gala by several representatives of the California assembly, including Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who spoke at the event. Acclaimed actress, singer and activist Bellamy Young hosted the event that featured a special performance by singer-songwriter and actress Leona Lewis, and a presentation of the incredible animal victories in California presented by actress and animal advocate Kristin Bauer.
It was a fun and inspiring evening, giving everyone in attendance the kind of boost we all need in facing the ongoing challenges of our work. There is a long road ahead, as the U.N. report reminds us, but we’re not alone. As the Gala reminds us every year, we’re part of a big and wonderful movement, much larger than ourselves, and together, we can tackle any challenge in the struggle to make this world a better one for all who live and breathe.