Vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix gave a moving speech, centered on animal rights, while accepting his Oscar for best actor during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday. Phoenix spoke about issues of intersectional oppression that are present in all social-justice movements and his unique position to use his celebrity platform as a “voice for the voiceless.” Amid applause, Phoenix said, “I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality, or racism, or queer rights, or indigenous rights, or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control, use, and exploit another with impunity.” Phoenix focused particularly on the dairy industry to highlight that all forms of animal agriculture, not just the meat industry, are inherently cruel. “We’ve become very disconnected from the natural world,” the vegan actor said. “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and cereal.” The actor offered solutions to move toward a more equitable world through human innovation. “I think when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create and develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.” To end his speech, Phoenix shared a lyric written by his late brother, River Phoenix: “Run to the rescue with love—and peace will follow.”
Phoenix has swept the best actor category during this year’s award season, receiving an award for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck in Joker at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Oscars—all ceremonies that have either fully eliminated animal products from their menus or substantially increased plant-based options this year. In between ceremonies, Phoenix participated in vegan protests, a vigil in Los Angeles to bear witness to the suffering of pigs as they headed to slaughter immediately after the SAG Awards. Prior to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards—where he also secured a best actor win—Phoenix led a protest in London organized by animal-rights group Animal Equality where he unveiled a 390-square-foot banner from the Tower Bridge that read: “Factory farming destroys our planet. Go vegan.” And last week, Phoenix starred in the short film Guardians of Life to illuminate the role of animal agriculture in the wildfires destroying the Amazon, Australia, and the planet at large.
Photo credit: The Oscars