EXCLUSIVE: PBN Interview With Vegan Oscar-Winner Joaquin Phoenix

The award-winning actor discusses activism, sustainability, and the urgent need for change


4 Minutes Read

Joaquin Phoenix spoke to Plant Based News during a protest. - Media Credit: Sipa USA / Alamy Stock

Watch Plant Based News’ exclusive interview with vegan actor and Academy Award winner, Joaquin Phoenix.

Vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix scooped the Best Actor statue for his highly acclaimed performance in Joker, back in February. But he’s been a winner for animal rights for decades. Here, he discusses a range of topics – from the environment to how he deals with pushback for his activism, and why being vegan is so important now more than ever.

Vegan for life

Phoenix went vegan when he was just three-years-old. He says it happened when he and his siblings witnessed fish being killed in an aggressive way. He told Brut it was something the family immediately decided they wanted to have no part in.

“To me, it just seems obvious,” he said.

Since then, Phoenix has gone on to lend his cred to films, campaigns, and protests around the world in the name of saving animals. He narrated the 2005 documentary Earthlings. Regarded as one of the most important animal rights films of all time, Earthlings details the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, research, and entertainment.

Phoenix has appeared in a number of campaigns for animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) Before his Oscar win, he was eye-to-eye with a chicken in a PETA billboard campaign in Times Square. “We are all animals,” the billboard read.

He’s also appeared in PETA ads calling for an end to the wool industry. He sported a vegan suit in that campaign and exposed the horrific conditions sheep raised for their wool endure.

Both Phoenix and his fiancé, actor Rooney Mara, narrated another animal rights film: 2018’s Dominion. Much like Earthlings, this film exposes animal cruelty in Australia.

The couple have also appeared at protests and slaughterhouse vigils together.

‘Amplify the voices of activists’

Phoenix has been more publicly active when it comes to animal advocacy recently. PBN asked what prompted the change. The actor told PBN’s Klaus Mitchell that he – and his activism – has become more visible in recent times, but also that “things are really dire right now.”

“I think that when it’s your time to step up, it comes to you. I’ve always had a hard time imposing my personal beliefs on others, I’ve never wanted to do that…but things are really dire right now and the evidence is overwhelming that there is an incontrovertible link between the meat and dairy industry and climate change,” Phoenix told PBN.

“I think it’s something that people are waking up to, they realize that they cannot be protectors of the environment and not be vegan. It feels right and there is an opportunity, I have the opportunity to amplify the voice of the activists that are out here every day, or weekly, doing their work.

“And so I’m in a very unique position to be able to talk about their great work and to amplify their message. And so I think we just find the way that we can play our parts.”

Turning awards season vegan

Phoenix was reportedly a key player in promoting plant-based diets this awards season. He has been credited for inspiring a slew of award ceremonies – including the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Award – to serve all-vegan menus.

Sources told Variety that it was Phoenix who “suggested the idea to the Globes.”

Phoenix won multiple awards for his Joker role, including a SAG Award and Golden Globe on top of his Oscar. He used his speeches to highlight social injustices. At the BAFTA awards he discussed racism; at the Oscars, he tackled dairy.

Animal rights Oscars’ speech

Phoenix’s Academy Award speech went viral. The longtime vegan used his platform to take aim at the way we plunder natural resources. He took particular issue with the dairy industry, too.

“We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal,” he said in his speech.

But the actor called for hope, and unity in undoing the damage.

Phoenix continued: “I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. 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, one species, has the right to dominate, use and control another with impunity.I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world. Many of us are guilty of an egocentric world view, and we believe that we’re the center of the universe. 

“We fear the idea of personal change, because we think we need to sacrifice something; to give something up. But human beings at our best are so creative and inventive, and we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.”

This interview took place during an Earthlings Experience action in central London. During the action, activists wearing masks hold a screen playing footage from the documentary Earthlings. Other activists perform outreach, engaging in a respectful dialogue with passersby, and handing out flyers with resources and information.

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