The Walk the Line star, who is vegan, was joined onstage by his mother and three sisters at the glitzy ceremony in Los Angeles to present the inaugural River Phoenix Humanitarian Award to documentary filmmaker Shaun Monson.

Phoenix's mother Arlyn praised River, who died in 1993, for his animal rights work during their speech, saying, "He took personal responsibility for his beliefs by becoming vegan... He inspired not only our family but the world."

Acting stars Anjelica Huston, Jason Biggs, Alicia Silverstone and Maggie Q were also honoured with prizes for their animal rights campaigning.

Other honourees included Miley Cyrus' sister Noah, musician Tommy Lee and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA.

During the event, dance star Moby and comedian Bill Maher announced they were each donating $50,000 (£31,200) to the organisation to celebrate the 35-year anniversary.

The bash at the Hollywood Palladium was co-hosted by Huston and PETA's honorary director Pamela Anderson, and featured performances by Paul MCCartney and Beck.

Other attendees included Seth Green, Miranda Cosgrove, William H. MACy, Molly Shannon and Emily Deschanel.