Gene Baur

As to be expected, the Farm Sanctuary gala at Cipriani’s in NYC was a total success.

Upstairs the VIP section was bustling with guests like Kathy Freston, Corey Feldman, Wendie Malick, Simone Reyes, Danielle Konya, Fred Willard, Loretta Swit, Carol Leifer and Eric Roberts. (We even got interviews with a few. More on that later.)

Some celebs like The Social Network star Jessie Eisenberg skipped the photo ops but were there to support the organization just the same.

Downstairs, guests checked out items at the silent auction and munched on hors d’oeuves. People gushed over fabulous prizes like celebrity experiences, travel packages, artwork, shoes, jewelry and more.

As always at these events, activists had the chance not only to celebrate the hard work of an amazing organization, but also to share their own work on behalf of animals and network with like minded folk. And of course, what all vegans really care about, everyone gets one heck of a meal.

David Lee, the mind behind Field Roast, worked with Cipriani’s to prepare the menu. As a long time fan of Field Roast’s products, I was thrilled to see what he would come up with. For the first course, we started with heirloom tomatoes, hearts of romaine, fava beans, olive tapenade on grissini with balsamic vinaigrette. The second course featured ravioli with chao cheese filling and spring vegetables finished with tomatoes, chick peas and scallions. And the third course offered Field Roast porcini dijon crusted cutlet with roasted asparagus and yellow polenta. People cleaned their plates.

Throughout the meal, videos came up on the big screen with messages from Ellen Degeneres and Martha Stewart, talking about the important work done on behalf of farm animals by Farm Sanctuary.

Next up came the program. Gene Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, spoke about the last 25 years and all the amazing work the organization has done. Farm Sanctuary started its journey by saving the life of one animal. Hilda, a sheep who was saved from the top of a pile of carcasses twenty-five years ago.

Wendie Malick and Fred Willard were the hosts of the evening. The Hot in Cleveland actress summed it up nicely when she said about the organization’s crucial role, “And that is what is so powerful about Farm Sanctuary’s approach. By introducing the world to these animals as individuals, people gain greater understanding of who they are and why their lives matter.”

The various celebs of the night took the stage to talk up the award recipients. Kathy Freston, winner of the healthy living advocate award, was so moved she was in tears when she reached the stage. David Wolfson’s speech also made quite the splash, with its poignancy and humor.

Carol Leifer went on to host the live auction portion of the evening, entertaining people with her comedic timing and her personal journey towards animal activism. After a visit to Animal Acres where she learned about factory farming, Leifer became vegan. She joked as her reasoning behind the decision, “Because I felt that as a Jewish lesbian I wasn’t a part of a small enough minority.”  Nellie McKay closed the show with a few songs.

Finally, at nearly 10:30, guests were invited up to the dessert area to dine on decadent sweets made by Danielle Konya of Vegan Treats. Animal Planet was on hand to film everyone enjoying their desserts for the reality show about the vegan baker. Guests mingled and enjoyed their confections, concluding the evening.

That left Gene Baur who departed from the gala in the same VW van he used 25 years ago during the founding of Farm Sanctuary. He’s now on his way across the country for a three-week journey looking at the food, people and places that inspired this country’s move towards more compassionate eating and living.

In the next few days, look forward to interviews with some of the celebrity guests and notable vegans in the movement. It was a privilege to be there to celebrate this milestone with Farm Sanctuary, and a night this Ecorazzi girl will remember forever.

About Ali Berman

Ali Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World (Hazelden) and Misdirected (Seven Stories Press). She works as a humane educator for HEART teaching kids about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. Her published work can be found on her website at aliberman.com. In early 2012 Ali co-founded flipmeover, a production company with the mission to use media to raise awareness of social issues.

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