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Blackfish Director, James Cromwell & Paul Wesley honored by The Humane Society

The Humane Society of The United States 60th Anniversary Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 29, 2014

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When it comes to improving the lives of millions of animals, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is a change maker.

Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite of Blackfish accepts Impact Award at The Humane Society of The United States 60th Anniversary Gala on March 29, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite of Blackfish accepts Impact Award at The Humane Society of The United States 60th Anniversary Gala on March 29, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
Getty Images
The Vampire Diaries' actor Paul Wesley was honored with the Humane Generation Award at The Humane Society of the United States' 60th Anniversary Benefit Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 29, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California
The Vampire Diaries' actor Paul Wesley was honored with the Humane Generation Award at The Humane Society of the United States' 60th Anniversary Benefit Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 29, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California
Getty Images

Founded in 1954 with borrowed money by a small group of people who wanted to help animals – from ending slaughterhouse abuse to stopping overbreeding – The HSUS is now the nation’s largest animal protection organization.

The first of three galas to celebrate its six decades in serving animals was hosted at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday. They honored influential celebrity activists who support animal causes with proceeds from its $350-a-plate gourmet vegan dinner benefiting companion and farm animal protection campaigns.

Not only was it an opportunity to celebrate animals and reflect on all the progress that’s been made but also “to remind us on how much cruelty there is still to confront,” says Jennifer Fearing, California Senior State Director of The HSUS.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite was honored the Impact Award. As a revolutionary documentary with a powerful impact, she’s raised global awareness of the devastating plight of orcas suffering in captivity.

“People are making it clear that they are not okay with Orcas for entertainment – and most people are actually making it clear that they’re not okay with any animals for entertainment – and I think that is a fantastic revolution that is happening,” said Cowperthwaite.

“The animals that are there right now should not have to perform for their food – that is the message that we have certainly heard and we would hope that SeaWorld would possibly spearhead change perhaps once we speak loudly enough.”

Actor James Cromwell was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award for his longtime commitment to The HSUS. As an outspoken animal advocate, he’s utilized his fame to call an end to the use of animals in cruel and unnecessary research, factory farming, and entertainment.

“People have to make a connection. We as a culture, as a species, have made a disconnection between what we eat and the animals we love. Almost everyone loves animals, they have companion animals, and they understand and see the beauty of animals in the wild. But they don’t make the connection of what’s on their plate got their through this extraordinary cruel and inhumane process – which is basically killing us,” said Cromwell.

The Humane Generation Award was awarded to “The Vampire Diaries” star Paul Wesley. He’s been instrumental in creating a generation of young people who care about animal protection.

Through his massive star platform, he’s made youthful minds aware of the inherent cruelty of confinement on factory farms.

“We need to start working towards getting rid of factory farming in the world, but especially in this country. It’s an issue that is incredibly archaic – I can’t believe in this day and age we’re basically confining animals to tiny gestation crates – they can’t move – they’re essentially suffering their entire lives and then they die – it’s heart-wrenching,” said Wesley.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., was presented with the inaugural Humane Governor Award. To protect the Golden State’s animals, he’s signed more than two dozen laws that aim to curb animal fighting, hunting with hounds, shark finning, wildlife poisoning, and so much more.

Singer Kesha, actress Bellamy Young (Scandal), model Joanna Krupa, actress Victoria Summer (Saving Mr. Banks, Transformers), plant-based chef Leslie Durso, celebrity dog trainer Tamar Geller, actress Emma Furhman (Blended), actress Beth Grant, amongst others, were also in attendance proudly showing support of The HSUS and its mission.

Future goals for The HSUS include:

- Keeping U.S. horse slaughterhouses closed while fighting the shipping of American horses overseas

- Promoting spay and neuter programs with a goal of eliminating euthanasia of healthy, adoptable, pets

- Fighting for the Humane Cosmetics Act to ban cosmetics testing of animals

- Fighting bear hunting in Maine, wolf hunting in Michigan and seal hunts in Canada.

Learn more about how you can help animals at humanesociety.org

Author: Jessica Blotter, M.A.Ed., is founder of Kind Traveler, a new digital giving platform that rewards travelers for giving back to top-rated charities. As a writer, she has a column with CBS Los Angeles and Examiner and contributes regularly to Fast Company and Hospitality Design.

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© Jessica Blotter, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author.