Is Joaquin Phoenix the Most Influential Vegan in the World Right Now?

Joaquin Phoenix has been vegan for more than 40 years.

As a young child, he was on a boat with his family when he noticed people fishing. He saw them throwing fish against the side of the boat in order to stun them. Immediately, he had a reaction. He knew it was cruel, wrong. But it wasn’t just him, his siblings felt the same. That day, they questioned their parents: Why didn’t you tell us? He remembers his mom welling up with tears. From that point on, the family did not eat meat. Soon afterwards, they went vegan.

Phoenix told this story in an interview with Collider almost two years ago. For nearly his whole life, he’s been an outspoken advocate for animals, often working with nonprofit organizations like PETA. But recently, he has let his vegan flag fly prouder than ever before, and it’s nothing short of brilliant.

It goes without saying that right now is probably the most pivotal moment in Phoenix’s acting career. His intense and moving performance in Joker has already earned him numerous awards and endless glowing reviews; he is the undisputed frontrunner for the Best Actor Academy Award. Most actors would be capitalizing on this immense success, spending this crucial time doing magazine covers, booking other films, campaigning for the Oscar, etc.

Phoenix is using the moment to educate, advocate, and be a badass activist for animals.

Back in September, while attending the Toronto International Film Festival, Phoenix snuck away to meet up with activists in the subway to help promote a vegan mural campaign by an organization called Be Fair Be Vegan. Clogging the St. George station, the media swarmed to get photos, bringing attention to the campaign.

Phoenix takes photos next to animal rights murals in the Toronto subway

The following month he was named PETA’s “Person of the Year” and appeared on billboards in Times Square and on Sunset Boulevard that called on people to end speciesism and live vegan. That same month, just days after the Joker premiere, he was photographed outside a slaughterhouse with Los Angeles Animal Save, a group that bears witness to animals as they are trucked to slaughter in downtown LA.

Then came the announcement this past month that the Golden Globes, one of the world’s most-watched awards shows, would be serving a plant-based meal to highlight the importance of sustainability and bring attention to the climate crisis. It was the first time in history a major televised awards show made such a bold move.

Phoenix’s Times Square / Sunset Boulevard billboard

The night of the event, Joaquin Phoenix snagged the trophy for Best Actor and used his speech to not only thank the Globes for the vegan meal but to highlight the connection between animal agriculture and climate change. It was revealed the next day that Phoenix himself was the one who influenced the Globes to make the switch. Taking up the challenge, the Critic’s Choice Awards announced that their meal would also be vegan this year (Phoenix won Best Actor there, too).

Most recently this month, Phoenix was arrested while using his star power to bring attention to animal agriculture’s destructive impact on the environment at one of Jane Fonda’s now famous climate protests in Washington D.C. In an impassioned speech before his arrest, he urged the crowd — and Fonda — to stop eating animal products.

Speaking at a climate protest in Washington D.C.

Leading up to the Oscars, one can only guess what Phoenix will do next. Will he mention veganism at the Academy Awards when he wins Best Actor? We can be pretty certain. But I have to say, whether he does or not, it’s been amazing to see someone at the height of their career be so completely undaunted and use the moment not for self-aggrandizement, but for a cause.

In our celebrity-obsessed culture, actors, musicians, etc. have great power. And, as we learned in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. We can only hope that others will follow Phoenix’s lead and use their power to influence change. The animals desperately need it.