News release from PETA:
New York — Drumroll, please: Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and style guru Tim Gunn today were named PETA's 2009 Woman of the Year and Man of the Year. Each honoree has made an exceptional effort to place animal rights issues before a large audience.
DeGeneres, who went vegan in 2008, explained her decision on her official Web site: "I personally chose to go vegan because I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals, and I suddenly realized that what was on my plate were living things, with feelings." Since then, she has used her platform to highlight a cruelty-free lifestyle, including publicizing her own high-profile vegan wedding. She has also invited experts such as Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, and vegan diet guru and author Dr. Neal Barnard to appear on her show.
Gunn, the host of Project Runway and the creative director at fur-free Liz Claiborne Inc., narrated PETA's video "Fashion Victims," which exposes the cruelty of the fur trade and details how snakes used for clothing are sometimes nailed to trees and have their bodies cut open with knives before they are skinned. Gunn, who touts compassionate designers who use mock croc, fake snake, and other animal-friendly fabrics, recently told the Los Angeles Times, "Wearing fur is like wearing a big sign reading, 'I'm in favor of inflicting cruelty and pain on animals as a fashion statement.'" While he was chair of the fashion design department at Parsons, he started a program to allow PETA to give presentations to students so that they could see for themselves what happens to animals who are abused and killed for their hides.
"Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres show us that one person really can make a difference in the world by rejecting cruel deeds in favor of compassionate acts," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "Their message that animals must be treated kindly and respectfully has reached scores of people, and many of them have changed their buying habits, all because Gunn and DeGeneres spoke up for the voiceless."
Each honoree will receive an award plaque and a letter of appreciation from PETA. Previous PETA Person of the Year awards went to Oprah Winfrey in 2008 and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in 2007.
For more information, please visit PETA.org.