The Night Joaquin Phoenix Spoke

Have you ever believed in something with all your heart and wished everyone would support it? Have you ever felt the frustration, anger, and sadness that not enough people are listening? Have you ever been ridiculed for taking a stand for the most defenseless among us? This is what it often feels like to be an advocate for animals confined, abused, deprived, exploited, and killed for food.

When someone who also gets it gives voice to that cause and millions of people are watching, it’s an inspiring moment. It gives hope among cries for help. In a world that often mocks and ignores people who advocate for farmed animals, it provides comfort when someone uses their platform to speak truth to power and indifference. This is how millions of people felt the night Joaquin Phoenix spoke for animals.

Phoenix validated what many of us have been saying for decades: Eating animals is cruel, unnecessary, destructive to the planet, misaligned with people’s values, and indefensible. When he walked on stage to accept the most prestigious award in his field, he immediately told the crowd to stop clapping. Applause didn’t feel right amidst so much suffering. His humility and desire to direct attention to those most in need was refreshing–a stark and welcome contrast to the country’s president who walks away from the podium to give people more time to clap for him and talks endlessly about himself.

Joaquin’s speech meant so much because animal and environmental advocates are emotionally drained from the daily onslaught of bad news. It was uplifting to see someone promote justice during such trying times.

The speech meant so much because the animal agriculture industry spends millions on false advertising and lobbying that permeates our culture and politics. This speech was the animals’ advertisement.

And the speech meant so much because the animal and planet advocacy movements have momentum and each act of courage and kindness further jolts people into awareness. The plant-based food industry is booming with delicious, healthy, and more humane options, so we celebrate any positive step that helps us reach a tipping point–and we’d prefer an Oscar speech over an unprecedented natural disaster.

I saw River Phoenix speak at the 1990 Earth Day on the National Mall in DC. It was a pivotal moment in my life that helped me transition from an environmentalist (I was working for a nonprofit environmental protection organization on Capitol Hill) to an animal advocate. I imagine Joaquin’s speech will do the same for so many open-minded people in search of ways to align their actions with their values.

Here’s a quote from River’s 1990 speech: “In my life, I decided not to eat animals or animal products or to use their skins for my clothing, shoes, or decorations. There’s such immense cruelty involved with the raising of animals for human consumption that if I can stop their pain by boycotting their products, I will immediately make a difference.”

20 thoughts on “The Night Joaquin Phoenix Spoke

  1. As a vegan for the last 37 years I was so delighted by Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar Speech.

    Brave to dare speak out against the status quo. He sounds ‘breathless’ so I assume it took great courage for him to speak truth to power. Wonderful.

    I can’t believe he wasn’t nervous. I think it is incredibility brave to dare stand up and be counted……. most people don’t.

    Fight climate change with diet change

    Something each and everyone can easily do to help …and no need to get governments, authorities, industry or multinationals et al involved. Going vegan is the least we can do.

    The backlash is in full swing ………as one would expect. This explains why. I cannot recommend this read highly enough. I’ve just read it over my bloodless supper and found it unbelievably insightful. Reading the psychology for why omnivores loath us (vegetarians hate us even more!) is so useful. It only takes about ten minutes to read.

  2. Thank you for writing this great article. Gentle World’s founders are the aunt and uncle of Joaquin and introduced veganism to them over 40 years ago. So we are proud of him for speaking out the truth! It’s been a long haul for the enslaved and always has been.

    Warm regards, Summer

    1. Could not love this man more. He’s taking on injustices that the world wants to sweep under a rug. (Probably one made from the fur of some of our world’s critically endangered.) His soul purpose that night was to deliver those words and he very courageously cut off his own much deserved applause to do so. Thank you for looking at these animals- soul to soul.

    1. So well said! And you conveyed what every one of us is feeling and thinking just as Joaquin did. I’m hoping people that are not yet living the vegan lifestyle Seek out more information about what he was speaking on and make the connection. I’m hoping for sweeping change because it’s never been worse for animals ever in history.

  3. I was biting my nails and waiting for the moment.And when it came, i had goosebumps!He spoke deep down from his heart and soul!There was no greater message he could’ve given than this.And my favourite was ‘using love and compassion as your guiding principles’It represented the millions of voices that speak for the voiceless each day!That is what the noble virtue of compassion will do.Transform you into an sensitive intelligent being!!

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