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During his Oscars acceptance speech for best male lead as the psychologically tormented Arthur Fleck in “Joker” (2019), actor Joaquin Phoenix famously lamented man’s treatment of cows.
“We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources,” he lamented. “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.”
A couple of days later, Phoenix went to the Pico Rivera slaughterhouse in Los Angeles and “liberated” a cow and its calf from being “murdered, murdered, murdered,” as he put it.
Video of the moment was published online this week by animal rescue and advocacy group . WATCH:
As the video highlights, Phoenix’s actions followed his wild Oscars acceptance speech in which he portrayed human beings as pillagers and plunderers of the world, which he framed as part of a larger discussion about “justice.” During his lament, he specifically cited humanity’s treatment of cows.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes,” Phoenix said. “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, 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 many of us, what we’re guilty of, is an egocentric world view, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”
“We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources,” Phoenix continued. “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. And I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up but human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and 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.”
“Now, I have been — I’ve been a scoundrel in my life,” he concluded. “I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance and I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of humanity. I just I want to, when he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, he said, ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’ Thank you.”
— Ben McDonald (@Bmac0507) February 10, 2020
The speech garnered a wide range of responses, including from some high-profile figures on the right, among them talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh, who offered some commentary on Phoenix’s “feel-good wackoism” on his radio show that week.
“Boy, do we suck,” said Limbaugh, mockingly. “Yeah. That’s the Academy Award, best actor for a movie appropriately called ‘The Joker.’ We are the center of the universe, Mr. Phoenix,” said Rush.
“Humanity is the center of the universe by design. We are the stewards of the universe. We are the stewards of the natural world. We are the ones bestowed with the intelligence and the compassion to do it. We have more cows and more milk than anybody knows, and there isn’t a cow in the world that is anguished when her calf is taken away for more than five minutes because she doesn’t remember it. It’s a gift of God… Humanity has to feed itself. The means by which we do so has been given to us by God. … This is not even liberalism. This is just some sort of feel-good wackoism that seeks primacy by placing humanity on no higher level than any other living organism.”