March 30, 2009
The 23rd Genesis Awards
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi were honored as well as nineteen works from television, film and print
by Jennifer Fearing
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 awards ceremony was 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."
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.
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.
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 and "New York, I Love You's" Maggie Q 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.
"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.
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.
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 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.
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."
Click here to see 23rd Genesis Awards photos on flickr.
Click here to see the full list of Winners and Nominees.
Click here to see sponsors of The 23rd Genesis Awards.