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Featured Charity: Humane Society of the United States

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Amy Smart, 20th Genesis AwardsEcorazzi is always proud to report on the many Hollywood starlets that serve as leading voices when it comes to standing up for animal rights. And in many cases, celebrities often work with the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is one of the leading non-profits in educating and raising awareness around animal cruelty and Ecorazzi’s first Featured Charity. We took some time to talk to Beverly Kaskey, Senior Director of The Hollywood Office of HSUS to learn more about the organization and how celebrities are playing an important role in educating people around animal issues.

E: Tell us about The Hollywood Office of the Human Society of the United States.
HSUS: We originally started as the ArkTrust and merged with HSUS in 2002. We are devoted to raising public awareness of animal issues by encouraging and honoring the major news and entertainment media. We believe that media is an extremely influential forum to inform, provoke and compel individuals to think differently about a whole range of social issues and educate about animal cruelty.

Zooey & Emily DeschanelE: Tell us about the Genesis Awards.
HSUS: Animal advocate and actress Gretchen Wyler started the Genesis Awards in 1986. She came up with the idea because she strongly believed in rewarding members of the media who spotlight animal issues, thus increasing public awareness and compassion toward animals. The first event took place as a luncheon at the Bel Age Hotel drawing only 140 attendees and quickly grew into a large gala at the Beverly Hills Hilton with over 800 people. Wyler wanted to really honor the animal activism that really started the trend of animal activism in the 60s from starlets of that time period including Doris Day and Brigitte Bardot. In fact, there are now two awards – the Doris Day Music Award and the Brigitte Bardot International Award that are both highlighted during the gala.

E: What role do the celebrities play in the Genesis Awards?
HSUS: The actual awards are given to members of major media who include animal issues and raise public understanding of animal issues. The celebrities actually present the awards, however we just announced a new award in honor of Gretchen Wyler which was created specifically to a celebrity. Paul McCartney received the first award in honor for the work he has done for raising awareness against the slaughter of seals in Canada and his full body of work in animal rights over the past forty years.

E: Not to name drop, BUT, who are some of your regulars that take part in the Genesis Awards?

HSUS: We are so fortunate to have a number of celebrities who continue to support the work we do and help to raise awareness around specific issues at infinite levels. Some of our friends include: Bill Maher, Wendy Malick, James Cromwell, Alicia Silverstone, Sean Astin, Amy Smart, Emily and Zooey Deschanel, Daryl Hannah and many more.

E: Tell us about the Animal Content in Entertainment Program (ACE).
HSUS: The goal of this program is to work with filmmakers, producers and distributors to develop and support the inclusion of animal topics in feature films, television programming and documentaries. This is where media truly has the power to change minds and influence behavior. We work with them at a creative level to assure that they accurately portray animal issues in principal or secondary dramatic or comedic story lines. We also offer a grant program called SilverDocs in partnership with AFI/Discovery Channel Film Festival, which we hope will encourage animal issues as a rich and growing source of narrative and factual material.

E: Any upcoming storylines we should be aware of?
HSUS: Morgan Spurlock of 30 days did an episode where he paired an animal activist with a non-animal activist and Emily Deschanel recently featured animal cruelty in an episode of Bones.

E: What are some recent campaigns you have taken part in?

HSUS: We recently launched Puppy Mill Awareness Week with support from Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nathan Lane, Patricia Arquette, and Molly Shannon. Our goal is to help educate people that there are different ways to find pets other than puppy mills which is actually where many of the puppies in pet stores come from.

Another big event is when Wolfgang Puck recently announcing his commitment to come up with mandates that would end animal cruelty including no caged crates for veal, no battery caged chickens, and amazingly NO FOIE GRAS. This will make a huge impact.

Russell Simmons also recently came out with an anti-dog fighting PSA.

All of these campaigns are raising awareness and helping people to make the anti-animal cruelty choice.

E: What do you feel are some of the most influential entertainment pieces that have helped to raise animal awareness?
HSUS: Bee Movie is an amazing recent example which really highlights factory farming but in a very light hearted way. Babe of course helped to put a face on pork for children and adults. Charlotte’s Web, Finding Nemo, Free Willy, and many documentaries narrated by celebrities like the PBS Nature Series have been very influential.

E: What are some ways that people can stay up to date on new shows or get involved?
HSUS: We have a “One To Watch” section of our website where people can sign–up and receive updates. And of course you will find multiple ways to get involved through donations, getting involved in campaigns, and writing letters to legislators through the Humane Society Website.

E: Lastly, we couldn’t help but notice that when Bob Barker (famed animal advocate) retired from The Price Is Right, that Drew Carey continued to pass along his message of “keep your animals spayed and neutered,” did you have any influence on that?

HSUS: (laughter) No we did not, but what a great tribute to Bob Barker and proof that the mass media have the power to spotlight animal issues to vast audiences—literally at the speed of light.

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