If there were an Oscar for “Best Winner’s Speech on Behalf of All Vulnerable Beings and Especially Animals,” Joaquin Phoenix, 45, would have won his second “Best” award at the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 9.
Of course, winning Best Actor for the film Joker is a major achievement for the long-controversial star.
But it was his deeply felt passion for the rights of others, animal and human — along with an expression of personal humility in the face of such issues that doubtless surprised many — that stood out among the winners giving thanks that night.
“I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room,” he began, “because we share the same love, the love of film….But I think the greatest gift that it has given me, and many of us in this room, is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless.”
In his lengthy speech of thanks to the Academy, Phoenix gave voice to many progressive causes — echoing and expanding on the speech he gave at the 77th Golden Globe Awards last January 5 after winning Best Actor for Joker there. (You’ll recall that he also influenced the Golden Globe event organizers to make their pre-awards dinner menu entirely vegan.)
“Whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights,” He told the Academy audience, “we’re talking about the fight against the belief [that] one nation, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control and use, and exploit another with impunity.
“I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and…what we’re guilty of is an egocentric world view, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”
The actor continued: “We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. 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 our cereal.”
After making such powerful points, Phoenix ended his Oscar speech with a thoughtful commentary that shows how he’s matured since his earlier days in acting, when he was often arrogant and mocking of others:
“I think we fear the idea of personal change, because we think we have to sacrifice something, to give something up. But human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious, I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop, and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.”
He ended his speech with a touchingly emotional reference to his late brother and fellow actor, River Phoenix:
“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'
We who also care about and defend the animals thank you, Mr. Phoenix. May your voice be heard for a very long time in as many places as possible where humans still believe in their right to kill and eat defenseless animals.