It was a glamorous and moving night under the stars for Mercy For Animals at their Hidden Heroes Gala.
Guests arrived at the elegant Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles, checked in, and entered the bustling crowd in the outdoor gardens.
The first thing I could see was celebrities taking photos on the red carpet; the one who caught my eye was Evanna Lynch from Harry Potter. This was a different crowd than many of the vegan events I’ve been to, things like food festivals, and I only recognized a few people. It was an especially beautiful crowd, and maybe that has a lot to do with seeing people in gowns and suits. I became so excited to see many trays of chic nibbles being passed around, things like Tofurkey sliders, and farro salad. I found some of my friends and chatted, though I couldn’t stop people watching and taking in the beautiful scene.
Vegan galas sometimes feel like one of the closest things to world peace (or should I say, achieving world peace): gorgeous, happy people, in a stunning environment, with an array of tasty and cruelty-free food (as it should be), getting together to create changes to improve the world.
We enjoyed the outdoor area for a bit longer, and the fairy lights began to twinkle as day fell into night. Along with an abundance of appetizers, guests could enjoy the photo booth, the bar, and several informative tv screens and posters showing the work that Mercy For Animals does. Nathan Runkle, the founder of Mercy For Animals, was a stylish vision in white, surrounded by the many people who wanted to talk to him.
After some time, guests were led indoors, where a historic cathedral had become a giant dining room flanked by archways and columns, facing a stage. My table was full of friends who I’ve known for years, a large family of seven sisters who, along with their husbands, all became vegan. I am so grateful they invited me to be their guest at the event!
Then, it was time to enjoy the incredible dinner! To give you an idea of some of the people attending- Miyoko’s cheese was on the menu, and Miyoko was also walking around herself. Moby and Kat Von D were also in attendance- to me, they always seem like the Prom King and Queen of vegan events.
Though the whole dinner was incredible, there were a few things in particular that stood out to me. The cheeses are always a favorite, of course. The Hungy Planet sausage was an absolute standout. And I couldn’t believe how tasty roasted strawberries were. Must try at home!
And now, for the heart and soul of the event. Recognizing the Hidden Heroes of the Mercy For Animals organization. Mercy For Animals focuses on undercover investigations to reveal the devastating conditions on factory farms. Many of these videos are incredibly shocking and impactful, and have helped create laws and better treatment for animals. Clearly, it takes a village, and it was revealed that the hidden heroes being honored were both the people who fund these brave efforts, and, of course, most of all, the undercover investigators who put themselves in agonizing, soul-crushing conditions, in order to be angels for animals in the long term.
The first award was given to Jim Greenbaum, whose foundation has provided so much to help MFA run their organization. Jim’s speech was uniquely insightful, since he talked about what it was like to be in his shoes and in a position of generosity. Some of his insights: how should he invest his funds? What’s the appropriate amount of money to allow yourself to live on? Should you spend money on charity, or to organizations creating lasting change? He believes that it’s most important to give most of his money to organizations creating lasting change. He says that these are some of the questions he has to wrestle with. Along with being a generous MFA donor, Jim’s foundation also supports Melanie Joy’s work on Carnism (a favorite of mine), and works toward ending female genital mutilation. Here is a link to Jim’s foundation to see the work he is doing: The Greenbaum Foundation.
Another memorable award was given to Diane Warren, presented by Leona Lewis. Diane Warren is a songwriter responsible for many of the hits we know and love, including ones for Leona Lewis and Cher. Her speech was short and honest, about animal animal agriculture: “Seriously, it’s so fucked.” For many of us who realize the truth about animal welfare and factory farms, we can relate to this sentiment. Realizing all the terrible things being done to animals all around you is pretty gnarly. Which is why we came to support MFA.
Undercover investigator Barb Sicotte was presented with an award. When you watch the undercover investigator videos, you don’t always think about the person behind the camera. This was a person so passionate about helping animals hurting, that she was willing to dive into a world of hell in order to make change for a better future. It was hard to imagine that, seeing her up there in a sophisticated dress. She spoke to the fact that the animals are individuals, like one blind turkey who she named Isabelle, who would sit in her lap for a few moments of comfort. It was really something else to hear from someone with this level of bravery and morals.
Another presenter was Moby, who never fails to make an impression. In a good way! He said he’d been vegan for 30 years, and never could have imagined that this vegan movement would be grow so much and be so legitimate. I think many of us in the room felt the power of this, and how we’d woken up so that we can make the world a better place that respects animals.
Nathan gave a speech that tugged at our heart strings. He said that not only are lives being destroyed on farms, but families are being destroyed, relationships are formed and destroyed, and souls are being crushed. He gave an example of a mother cow whose baby had been taken from her, and many other mother cows gathered to rally and protest the taking of this one mother cow’s calf.
In a story that moved me the most of the whole evening, Nathan shared that at one farm, a pig had learned- because they are smarter than dogs and toddlers- how to open up his cage. But before trying to escape, this pig had gone over to other pig’s cages and helped them escape as well. As Nathan said, if this isn’t love, then what is?
These rousing words were the perfect primer for the next part of the event, the fundraising, so they can continue overhauling the system. The way it was set up, you could donate an amount and see what that amount goes to: for example, I can remember $10,000 goes to take care of the mental health of an undercover investigator. Another amount went to investigator housing, or to drones, or to high-tech cameras, etc. Donors jumped out of their seats to donate, and the resulting funds raised? $1.8 million!!!
After the fundraising, it was time for the afterparty- I had heard about an afterparty and silent disco, but I thought people had been kidding. They most certainly were not! If dinner and apps hadn’t filled you up, not to worry, there were MORE apps- including my favorite of the night, the chicken and waffles, the Asian-style pork bites, and the tomato sushi that is debuting in Whole Foods November 1st. It tastes SO much like tuna sushi!
I was too cool for the silent disco, until someone put a pair of headphones on my head, and I saw how much fun it was! We danced, had more nibbles, and finally, it was time to go home.
We were gifted with a copy of Nathan Runkle’s new book, a perfect parting gift, (which I’ve already started and I highly recommend).
Until next time!
To find out about the next events by Mercy For Animals, sign up for their newsletter. If you're in Los Angeles, their all-vegan musical festival with Moby is next!
Link to website: Mercy For Animals
Link to the MFA blog about the event: MFA Hidden Heroes blog
If you weren't able to make it to the gala, I hope this made you feel like you were with me.
If you were there, did I miss anything? What was your favorite part? Was this your experience too?