On Friday, September 16, hundreds of animal and environmental advocates dined, danced, and watched as actor Stephanie Corneliussen (“Mr. Robot,” “The Invitation”) presented the Hope Award to James Cromwell (“Succession”).

Sarah Jeffery at the Mercy for Animals Gala
Sarah Jeffery at the Mercy for Animals Gala

Cromwell is an acclaimed actor and activist whose decades of advocacy in the animal protection, vegan, and environmental movements have inspired people around the world. Mercy For Animals is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting a just, sustainable food system.

Hosted by actor Hayley Marie Norman (“Kenan”), the gala was attended (virtually and in person) by many esteemed guests, including Diane Warren, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Sarah Jeffery, Davey Havok, Tara Strong, Harley Quinn Smith, Brett Dier, Josh Pence, Allison Scagliotti, Kathy Freston, Tia Blanco, Rich Roll, Aubrey K. Miller, Ivanna Sakhno, Vicky-T, Adam Ferello, Natalie Gal, Justina Adorno, Courtney Stodden, Jaason Simmons, Marianna Burelli, Roberto Aguire, Tanya O’Callaghan, James Wilks, Nikki SooHoo, Paolo Mascitti, Remy Morimoto Park, Stephanie Gerard, Mateus Ward, Taylor Blackwell, and Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Cromwell delivered a rousing, heartfelt speech: “You try to make people understand what a seminal concept it is to recognize other sentient beings as having a reason for being on this planet and for contributing what they contribute to anchoring our spirit, which is lifting off from most people, it seems to me. They’re becoming detached. So it remains to us, to you — to all of you wonderful people who care and who act on that caring to make a difference in the world. And it will make a difference. And God, if we only had a whole city of you people, we could change the world. We will change the world. It is up to us. Our voices do count.”

Joanne L. Molinaro (aka The Korean Vegan) accepted the Global Impact Award for her work to inspire kindness and sustainability around the world. “What does it mean to be The Korean Vegan?” she asked. “It’s about being a responsible and effective advocate for compassion in every single way. … If you want to be compassionate for animals, you have to be compassionate for humans. If you want to be compassionate for humans, you have to be compassionate for animals. Everything is connected.”

Babette Davis, a vegan chef, public speaker, and co-owner of the popular Inglewood-based restaurant Stuff I Eat, accepted the Community Changemaker Award. “Over the years I’ve put in a lot of hard work with a lot of different business ventures,” she said. “But the one thing that really just stuck with me is food, and knowledge, and sharing that knowledge with the masses as I gain the knowledge. That means everything. Mercy For Animals has had our back — Stuff I Eat and Chef Babette — for years and years. They were one of the first companies that came into our restaurant and shot a video that went viral. They put us on the map. Thank you.”

“Joshua,” a whistleblower Mercy For Animals was able to publicly honor for the first time, accepted the Hidden Hero Award for his work leading to the landmark conviction of two companies for animal cruelty. Joshua’s testimony and footage were crucial to the court’s ruling, and his work has the potential to help countless animals.

“It’s a really important job to be able to give these animals a voice and to show people exactly what’s happening behind closed doors,” Joshua stated. “It’s probably the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

The program also featured a musical performance by award-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Hook and a plant-based menu created by world-class chef Sean Sheridan. Along with Stephanie Corneliussen, Richa Moorjani (“Never Have I Ever,” “Fargo”), Jessica Parker Kennedy (“The Flash”), and singer-songwriter Skylar Stecker presented awards. A full list of presenters and honorary committee members is viewable at MFAGala.com.

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