On Thursday evening nearly 1,000 animal advocates watched actors and activists Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara present the Hope Award to Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. messenger of peace, at the Mercy For Animals virtual Hope Gala hosted by NAACP Image Award winner, actress, and vegan foodie Tabitha Brown (Showtime’s The Chi).

Mercy For Animals is the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara presented Dr. Goodall with the Hope Award from their home in California.

“For many reasons, it’s important that more and more people move towards a plant-based diet,” said Goodall in her acceptance speech. “It’s good for the environment, for our health, and of course especially for animals. So let me close by applauding the wonderful work performed by Mercy For Animals. You are doing so much to help those beings enslaved by the greed of industrial animal farming, the desire to produce ever-cheaper meat, eggs, and milk. And let us all work together to end the immoral practice of factory farming.”

Miyoko Schinner, founder and owner of dairy-free cheese brand Miyoko’s Creamery, accepted the Global Impact Award alongside a sheep at her animal sanctuary, Rancho Compasión, in Nicasio, California.

“Food is the path I have chosen for over three decades to save animals,” said Schinner. “Through people’s stomachs, I’ve tried to touch their hearts and open them up to the sentience of animals that are caught in the food system today. Vegan and plant-based food companies are now speaking out about … animal agriculture. … I urge more companies to focus on the sanctity of the animals themselves and how if we can save them, we will save the planet and ourselves. Love and compassion for animals is our salvation.”

Pinky Cole, vegan restaurateur and owner of Slutty Vegan, accepted the Community Changemaker Award surrounded by vibrant fresh-cut flowers.

“It is so fulfilling to be able to show people that you can still eat nostalgic and still eat good food without compromising the lives of animals,” said Cole. “Being a changemaker is not just a title; it’s about making a difference in the lives of people who you attract every single day, whether it’s children, whether it’s adults, whether it’s employees or employers. It’s important to be able to make a positive impact on the lives of people.”

Erik Hastings, former undercover investigator and current Mercy For Animals senior investigations specialist, accepted the Hidden Hero Award for his work on several groundbreaking investigations.

“Our world changes fast,” said Hastings. “One thing that’s constant is the vital importance of redefining how society views and treats farmed animals. An investigator can’t do this work alone. My colleagues are essential in achieving our collective mission. But none of this is achievable without the millions of supporters spread around the globe cheering us on.”

The one-hour program also featured inspiring musical performances by NAACP Image Award-nominated singer Jade Novah, Emmy-winning music producer Devin Johnson, breakout star of The Voice Australia Johnny Manuel, Broadway star Alison Luff (Waitress) and actor Matt Magnusson from the band Big Sur Bound, and singer-songwriters Avasa and Matthew Love.

Award presenters also included Grammy-winning singer Mýa; Grammy nominee Durrell “TANK” Babbs (Hit the Floor); actors Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale), Javicia Leslie (Batwoman), Alexandra Paul (Baywatch), María Gabriela De Faría (The Moodys), Cleo Anthony (She’s Gotta Have It), Daniel Newman (The Walking Dead), Christopher von Uckermann (Diablero), Christian McGaffney (Natalia del Mar), Pérola Faria (Apocalipse), and Sadaa Sayed (Jayam); and fashion model Alex Trevelin. The gala announcer was American Idol’s Mark Thompson. A full list of presenters and honorary committee members is viewable at MFAGala.com.

After the awards ceremony, guests wrapped up the evening with a virtual after-party featuring music from international DJ and producer Tigerlily and Grammy-nominated duo SOFI TUKKER.

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