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Raves Genesis Awards

Stars Shine Brightly at The 23rd Genesis Awards
March 30, 2009

by Jennifer Fearing

Photographer and HSUS spokesman Nigel Barker implored the Canadian government to discontinue the seal hunt. © Long Photography

The annual tragedy that is the Canadian seal hunt was never far from the thoughts of presenters, honorees, and attendees numbering nearly a thousand �at The 23rd annual Genesis Awards, held in the International Ballroom of The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, March 28. This year's gala and awards ceremony were held in tribute to The Humane Society of the United States' ProtectSeals campaign.

One of the evening's special guests, Nigel Barker, internationally acclaimed photographer and spokesman for The Humane Society of the United States' ProtectSeals campaign, implored the Canadian government to discontinue the hunt, then offered a viable alternative. "My intention�and that of The HSUS," he said, "isn't to point fingers; rather we hope the Canadian government will consider the viable eco-tourism opportunity that presents itself."

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi were given top honors for their collective efforts and support of Prop 2 in California. © Long Photography

HSUS's annual Genesis Awards recognizes artists, writers, and others in entertainment and the media who contributed their time and talents over the past year to raise awareness of the plight and suffering of animals. Nominees from print, TV news, feature films, and narrative television media received recognition and awards presented by Hollywood stars before a celebratory crowd of appreciative animal lovers and HSUS supporters.

This year's ceremony was only the second since the loss of The Genesis Awards' founder Gretchen Wyler, whose absence was recognized throughout the evening.

Referred to last year by political satirist Bill Maher as the "Liz Taylor and Jackie Onassis of the animal movement all in one," Wyler's memory is honored in the form of The Wyler Award, established two years ago to honor a celebrity who has raised awareness of animal issues through the major media. The first two Wyler Awards have gone to Sir Paul McCartney (in 2007) and actor Hayden Panettiere last year.

HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle with Clyde, from "Marley & Me". © Long Photography

Wayne Pacelle , president and CEO of The HSUS, presented this year's Wyler Award to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and her wife, actor Portia de Rossi , for their collective efforts throughout the last year.

From their strong support of Proposition 2�the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act�which included hosting a million-dollar fundraiser for the campaign and discussing Prop 2 with Pacelle on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," �the pair also held a widely-covered vegan wedding which provided the couple with an opportunity to publicize to a broad audience their ethical decision to eschew animal products in hopes of influencing public behavior.

After viewing videotaped congratulations from Sir Paul, DeGeneres and de Rossi both spoke eloquently about their journey toward more ethical living and the changes they've been making in their lives to reduce animal suffering.

"People need to understand that animals are thinking, feeling beings who have a right to a free life," DeGeneres remarked while accepting her honor.

The cruelty endured by puppies in puppy mills, horses caught in the slaughter trade and victimized by the thoroughbred industry, and seal pups on Canadian ice floes dominated the evening's nominated video clips.

Hal Sparks presented this year's Sid Caesar Comedy Award to "The Simpsons." © Long Photography

Comedian Hal Sparks kicked things off with the Sid Caesar Comedy Award, which this year went to "The Simpsons" for an episode depicting Bart's experience with raising a calf in a 4-H program. In the show, when Bart discovers his calf's slaughterhouse destiny, he joins with sister Lisa to save his bovine friend from becoming a burger.

Sparks didn't miss an opportunity to comment on the seal slaughter and the demand from fashionistas that drives it, asking, "Who wears baby seals? My gosh, these people make Cruella de Ville look like Ed Begley, Jr."

Celebrity presenters included Academy Award nominee James Cromwell , "Bones" star Emily Deschanel, former Oakland Raider Jarrod Cooper, and actor Jennifer Coolidge. "Big Love's" Ginnifer Goodwin presented the award for Outstanding Feature Film to the producers of "Bolt," a charming, animated tale of a movie star dog who discovers the pleasures of real dog life, along with the sad truth about unwanted and abandoned cats and dogs.

"Big Love's" Ginnifer Goodwin presented the award for best feature film to the producers of "Bolt." © Long Photography

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's" Jorja Fox and actor Reid Scott presented the Outstanding TV Newsmagazine - Network award to "20/20" for chronicling the troubled history of elephants in captivity and explaining why many experts believe the world's largest mammal does not belong in a circus or a zoo.

"Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," which won a Genesis Award last year, won again this year in the Outstanding TV Newsmagazine - �Cable category for a graphic and disturbing report on the journey many young, healthy horses take from the track, to the auction house, to foreign slaughterhouses, where they are killed for human consumption .

Television reality stars Matt Grant and Claudia Jordan presented the award for Outstanding Unscripted Television Series to the producers of the "30 Days" episode featuring "George the Hunter" who moved in with Los Angeles animal activists for a month, discovering the plight of animals during that time and declaring himself a changed person by the show's end.

After "CSI's" Marg Helgenberger awarded "Grey's Anatomy" with the Outstanding Dramatic Series award, Executive Producer Mark Wilding gave a nod to actor and animal lover Katherine Heigl for urging the storyline where the Grey's resident pushes back against the use of live animals in medical training.

Comedian Carol Leifer (pictured with Lori Wolf) made light of spay/neuter myths. © Long Photography

Genesis attendees were treated to special videos throughout the night, including one featuring writer/comedian Carol Leifer , who debunked the myths associated with spaying and neutering our pets. She assured pet owners that neutering your dog would not diminish his urge to buy a Porsche and hair plugs.

Heather Mills celebrated the European Union's decision to ban the trade of dog and cat fur, and comedy legend Lily Tomlin, reprising her hilarious Ernestine persona, prompted giggles with her riff as the would-be HSUS Hollywood office receptionist.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" won the Outstanding Talk Show award for shows shining a spotlight on Pennsylvania puppy mills and engaging both sides of the Prop 2 debate regarding the treatment of animals on America's factory farms. "Alias" star Michael Vartan and "Dancing with the Stars'" Carrie Ann Inaba announced Oprah's win, edging out daytime doyennes Ellen DeGeneres and Martha Stewart.

Wendie Malick presented the Brigitte Bardot International award. © Long Photography

Brigitte Bardot's lifelong campaign to improve the plight of animals worldwide is honored each year with an award given in her name. This year, Wendie Malick presented the Brigitte Bardot International award to previous Genesis Award-winning filmmaker Karl Ammann for his stirring documentary about the Asian trade in exotic animals and their parts, "The Mong Lah Connection."

The Outstanding TV Documentary award went to the film "Blinders," which exposed the reality of the New York City carriage horse industry.

Comedienne Debra Skelton honored the print journalism awardees. These included USA Today, for a prodigious array of articles by Sharon L. Peters spotlighting many important companion animal issues; Newsweek, for an article by Sharon Begley, entitled "Extinction Trade," which reveals the links between the poaching of endangered species and militia and terrorist organizations; Sports Illustrated, for "The Good News Out of The Bad Newz Kennels," by Jim Gorant, regarding the rehabilitation of Michael Vick's dogs; and, in the Brigitte Bardot International Print category, �the U.K.'s Daily Mail, for Dr. Danny Penman's three bold, passionate, and well-argued condemnations of three of the worst forms of animal cruelty and exploitation�the Canadian seal hunt, bullfighting, and wild animals in circuses.

Finally, the Santa Barbara News Press received Special Recognition from The Genesis Awards for an unrivalled series of year-long, hard-hitting, and dogged editorials calling attention to myriad local and national animal protection issues.

The night was not just about praise for past efforts, but also a calling to action in the year to come. "We see a nation stirring on these issues," commented Pacelle. "Tonight, won't you make a 365-day commitment to change? We can do better. We are taking on the biggest abusers. The situation must change for animals."

Actor Corey Feldman and his wife, Susie, at The 23rd Genesis Awards. © Long Photography

Actor Corey Feldman and his wife, Susie, were joined on stage by Clyde, the adorable but incorrigible yellow Labrador who played Marley in the Genesis-nominated feature film "Marley and Me." HSUS Hollywood office Senior Director Beverly Kaskey, who was also the Executive Producer of the event, closed the night by reminding everyone of Wyler's mantra, that animals should have the right to "run if they have legs, swim if they have fins and fly if they have wings."

View more 23rd Genesis Awards images on flickr.

Full List of Winners:

The Wyler Award

Feature Film

Dramatic Series
GREY'S ANATOMY "Life During Wartime"

Sid Caesar Comedy Award
THE SIMPSONS � "Apocalypse Cow"

Children's Programming
HANDY MANNY � "Manny's Mouse Traps"

TV Newsmagazine - National
20/20 � "Elephant PTSD"

TV Newsmagazine - Cable

National News Feature
WORLD NEWS WITH CHARLES GIBSON "Monkey Business," "Person Of The Week," "Rescuing Racehorses," "Saving The Rhinos," and wolf segment

Local News Series (a tie)
KGO-TV (Bay Area) "I-Team Investigation: Battery Cages"
& KLAS-TV 8 (Las Vegas) "Elephant Abuse: Life on the Road"

Local News Feature
KHOU-TV �Houston "Slaughtergate"

TV Documentary

Unscripted Televison Series
30 DAYS � "Animal Rights"

Brigitte Bardot International

Talk Show
THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW � multiple shows


Series of Newspaper Articles
USA TODAY multiple articles by Sharon L. Peters

News Magazaine
NEWSWEEK "Extinction Trade" by Sharon Begley

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED "The Good News out of The Bad Newz Kennels" by Jim Gorant

Brigitte Bardot Internaional - Print
DAILY MAIL (U.K.) multiple articles by Dr. Danny Penman

Special Recognition
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS multiple editorials

Participating Genesis Gift Bag Donors:
Alaine's Bakery
Betsy Stein Massage Therapy
Eat In The Raw, Inc.
Evolution Pet Food
Exuberance Beauty
GET SERiOUS! Products
Green Sleeve
Jakks Dog Toys
Koby B Salon
LaRocca Skincare
LIP INK® International
Los Encinos Nail Spa
Marc Edward Skincare
Matt & Nat
Mutt Mitts
Natural Balance Pet Foods
NeuAura Shoes
Nurtured Pets
Paris Presents
Petz Life Oral Care
Pilates Plus DTLA
Rawvolutionary Cuisine
Sequel Natural Bars
Sun Flour Baking Co.
Sweet and Sara
V-Dog Food
Wholesome Sweeteners