Ricky Gervais has been named PETA's Person of the Year.

Animal rights organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) - has bestowed its annual honour upon the British comedian for his staunch support of animal welfare on his humorous Twitter account, which is followed by over five million loyal fans.

PETA's managing director Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement: ''Ricky Gervais makes sure that animals have their say, tweet, growl or roar on Twitter. He finds humour in most things, but cruelty to animals isn't one of them. As he says himself, 'Animals are not here for us to do as we please with. We are not their superiors, we are their equals. We are their family. Be kind to them.' ''

The 52-year-old star is a well-documented animal lover, often sharing funny pictures of furry creatures such as cats and dogs with his followers, and he has also used his considerable social media influence to promote the ethical treatment of animals.

In one tongue-in-cheek tweet, the comic wrote: ''''We should free laboratory animals and only test cosmetics on internet trolls. They'd get the attention they crave and they'd look nicer.''

Away from Twitter, the 'Derek' actor has also lent his voice to an anti-fur campaign and urged luxury British shop Fortnum & Mason to stop selling foie gras, which is made from duck or geese and often involves the birds being force-fed to fatten their livers.