“The truth is that caring for the well being of animals, I’ve always thought, makes us better human beings,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, addressing attendees at the Humane Society of the United States’ annual To the Rescue! gala. “More love, more attention and more awareness is what it’s all about,” the politician added, evoking an enthusiastic round of applause.
Held Friday, November 15 at Cipriani 42nd Street, animal lovers turned out in droves to support the HSUS mission, and namely their Animal Rescue Team who, as President and CEO of the Humane Society Wayne Pacelle puts it, “…rush in when animals are in terrible circumstances.” Think natural disasters, hoarding cases, puppy mills, cock fighting, dog fighting and so on and so forth.
“We cannot be bystanders,” Mr. Pacelle urged the more than 500 guests, who in addition to hearing from Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Pacelle were treated to a performance by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat and cheeky commentary from the evening’s MC Ali Wentworth.
Following a particularly heartfelt video clip, Ms. Wentworth nudged, “Everyone’s going to give, like, a million dollars each, right?!” Though she was evidently exaggerating, between seat sales, live and silent auctions and straight donations, the HSUS raised more than $1.6 million over the course of the event. Not too shabby.
Also not too shabby was the fantastic fare courtesy of Upper East Side vegan restaurant Candle 79. “I’ll actually eat tonight!” exclaimed Ms. Wentworth when she discovered who was catering. “It would be awkward if they were serving steak,” she aptly pointed out.
“Why do we love one and eat the other?” reasoned Miss New York City, Acacia Courtney, who on the red carpet revealed her daily dedication to a plant-based diet.
While many ticketholders (whom Mr. Bloomberg during his speech dubbed “glittering [and] glamorous”) might not make the connection between eschewing animal products and protecting domestic pets, Mr. Pacelle didn’t shy away from mentioning to a mixed crowd the questionable ethics of factory farming in America.
He began: “We as a country have these incredibly contradictory attitudes towards animals. We say that we love them, we appreciate them and we have laws that prevent cruelty. Yet, in this very same culture where all that occurs, there is so much cruelty. Not just random acts of cruelty, but large-scale institutionalized forms of cruelty.” This includes, of course, animals used in medical and cosmetic testing.
He continued: “Whether you’re a vegan or a vegetarian or an inveterate carnivore, this is a moral problem for every one of us. These animals think, they feel, they want to live as badly as we want to live. They want to feel comfort and happiness like all of us want to, and to treat them like some commodity and to immobilize them for their entire lives is really something that is at odds with the values that all of us in our society profess. We are so disassociated from these problems. But just because they’re far away does not release us from the moral responsibility to deal with these questions as individuals and also collectively as society.” Fearless as always, Mr. Pacelle perhaps struck a chord with meat-eating pet people in the room.
Another crucial facet of the fundraiser was puppy mills and, by extension, pet stores. Friends of Finn committee members Georgina Bloomberg, Amanda Hearst and others vehemently expressed their abhorrence of these profit-driven entities, encouraging adoption as the compassionate choice.
“When I adopted my first dog, that was when I started learning about the issues and understanding what a puppy mill is and why it’s bad to buy from a pet store,” explained Ms. Bloomberg, who is also known to have adopted a pig she subsequently named Wilbur.
As for her involvement with FoF, an arm of the HSUS, the mom-to-be said that, “…to be a true animal person you have to be doing something productive. I started realizing I had to go out in the field, as opposed to just saying I love dogs, which I don’t think is enough.”
Beyond volunteerism, Ms. Bloomberg also spoke openly about her rejection of fur, a material often lauded by fashion designers and fashion aficionados alike. “I’ve never worn fur,” she stated. “There are people who don’t want to hear the truth about it, [but] it’s something everybody should be against. There’s absolutely no excuse to wear fur.” PETA would undoubtedly be proud.
Another fur-free figure and active animal advocate, Mary Max praised the nonprofit: “I support HSUS because they celebrate animals and all their wonderful qualities. But they’re also fighting cruelty. To me, their Animal Rescue Team is like the FBI, CIA and Navy SEALs combined!”
Also on the night’s itinerary, Carlee and Laurie McGrath of San Diego were honored with HSUS’s Compassion in Action award, which recognized the mother-and-daughter’s generous contributions to the organization over the years. And, much to everyone’s enjoyment, rescued dachshund Ricky Bobby made a cameo with his adoptive mom Megan Bliss, a vet technician who took him in following a puppy mill raid.
Among other notable folks in attendance were New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez, 30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, reality TV personality Angela Simmons, artist Peter Max and Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen.
Photo Credit: Billy Farrell Agency