*Russell Simmons can now add to his titles of business mogul, hip-hop icon, top entrepreneur, and best-selling author, that of PETA’s Person of the Year 2011, a designation formerly held by Bill Clinton (2010), Ellen DeGeneres and Tim Gunn (2009), and Oprah Winfrey (2008).

“The horrible abuse of animals is the worst karmic disaster in the history of human kind,” Simmons said in a statement. “The work that PETA does to combat this catastrophe is amazing. I’m truly humbled to be chosen as this year’s Person of the Year, but the praise should go to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that are on the ground doing the work. I accept this honor on their behalf.”

“Russell Simmons uses his influence and success to encourage everyone to think about others, human or not, and to live compassionately,” says PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange. “Simmons’ philosophy—that everyone should stick up for the little guy—is one that everyone can follow.”

In Simmons’ 2011 book, Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All, he shares his belief that a dedication to service and a compassionate vegan lifestyle are the keys to success. Simmons came to this belief when Def Jam was taking off. As he explains in PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book One Can Make a Difference, “It slowly sunk in that … people were actually listening to what I had to say. So I began to pay more attention to just what it was I was saying.”