On perhaps one of the biggest nights of his life, PETA’s 2019 Person of the Year, Joaquin Phoenix, wasn’t thinking about himself. As he accepted the Oscar for Best Actor on Sunday, February 9, he was thinking about what else he could do to help end speciesism.
Instead of soaking up accolades, Phoenix gave a beautiful, humble speech about his own flaws and his belief in what he considers “the best of humanity”: our most important trait, compassion for others.
If you haven’t seen it yet or want to feel inspired all over again, watch his speech in its entirety:
“I think the greatest gift that [film as a form of expression has] given me and many of us in this room is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless. 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 we’re 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, 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 worldview, the belief that we’re the center of the universe. 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, 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.
When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric: He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.’ Thank you.”
The speech elicited cheers from the packed house, but it served its real purpose, too. Today, as Phoenix’s words dominate social media, people around the globe are reacting in the best way possible: They’re choosing to live compassionate, animal-friendly lives.
If you’re inspired by Phoenix and everyone else who is speaking out against injustice, make today the day you stop being silent and start using your voice to help those whose cries go ignored. Leave a vegan starter kit in your seat at the restaurant. Buy the person in line behind you a cruelty-free cleaning product. Take a friend to a sanctuary for farmed animals. Slip a leaflet into the pocket of a leather jacket in a store.