These Activists Will Inspire You to Do More for Animals

How do you thank someone who pours their heart, soul, time, tears, mind, hard work, and everything else into making this world a kinder place for animals?

While there may be no way to thank them enough for all that they’ve done for animals, PETA was honored to present two outstanding activists with awards at its recent Giving Animals a Future weekend, May 3 to 5, at its Sam Simon Center headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

At a banquet on Saturday evening, activist extraordinaire and beloved PETA honorary director Nanci Alexander presented an award that was named in her honor. She has supported PETA from the beginning and is unwavering in her commitment to stop suffering. That’s why PETA’s Washington, D.C., office is named after her and why her name is on the wall in the Campaigns Department at the Sam Simon Center. Her restaurant, Sublime, was the first gourmet vegan restaurant in the U.S., and she founded the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida at a time when few people had even heard of animal rights.

The prestigious Nanci Alexander Activist Award honors people whose work for animals, like Nanci’s, is visible, vital, and has an impact—and that describes Mary Ann Persad to a T.

Mary Ann has worn many hats as she spreads the animal rights message. She wore a beat cop’s hat when she posed as the “fashion police” to inform people that wearing animal skins is a fashion felony. She wore fox “ears” and bodypaint, as well as a raccoon costume, to urge New Yorkers to love animals, not wear them. She donned stars and stripes on the Fourth of July to pass out free veggie dogs at Coney Island. And she was even willing to let her own skin be “torn off”—with the help of some special-effects makeup—to urge H&M to stop selling leather.

Mary Ann does whatever she can to draw attention to animals’ plight, including going to jail for running onto the field at a Texas A&M football game to protest the school’s cruel muscular dystrophy experiments on dogs. We can’t think of a more deserving award recipient!

During the farewell brunch on Sunday, PETA supporter Alysoun Mahoney presented a very special award in honor of her late husband, Greg. When Alysoun and Greg bought a piece of land, they allowed it to become a refuge for wildlife rather than developing it. They have also adopted some of the neediest animals PETA has rescued, including two horses who were desperately in need of a wonderful home. Alysoun later took in a third horse, whom PETA saved from the racing industry, and Christopher, another PETA-rescued dog.

During his life, Greg provided a safe haven for animals, so it’s fitting that the Gregory J. Reiter Animal Rescue Award went to Paulette Dean, who has served as executive director of the open-admission Danville Area Humane Society for 27 years. For the animals of Danville, Virginia—a small city about 190 miles from PETA’s headquarters—Paulette is a combination of Mother Teresa, Susan B. Anthony, and Wonder Woman.

As a humane investigator for more than two decades, she has won countless battles to secure justice in behalf of neglected, abused, and forgotten animals. She also won a huge victory for chained dogs by getting a tethering ban passed in Danville, and she regularly speaks to the Virginia General Assembly on animal-related legislation. As an open-admission sheltering expert, she stands strong on the side of animals against attacks from proponents of selective-admission policies and trap-neuter-abandon programs that leave cats to fend for themselves outdoors and against those who advocate for warehousing dogs in cages for years on end. The lost and homeless animals of Danville are fortunate to have Paulette as their advocate.

If you’ve ever wondered how much difference one person can make, Nanci, Alysoun, Mary Ann, and Paulette show that the answer is this: a tremendous one! Let their persistence and kindness inspire you to do even more to help animals every day. If you need ideas, here are some simple ways to make a difference. And be sure to keep an eye out for PETA events in your area by joining the Action Team. Perhaps you could even be the next award recipient!


PETA would like to thank the following companies for their delicious vegan food donations at our Giving Animals a Future weekend:

And thank you to the companies who generously donated items included in our gift bags: