Phoenix, who has been a vegan since he was three, made a plea for tolerance and equality in his acceptance speech for the best actor award at the Oscars, saying no race, gender or species had rights over another.

“I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world,” he said. “We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

What really inspires the actor to be vegan?

While Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards has gone viral, his iconic statements of humans ‘artificially inseminating cows’, separating newborn calves from their mothers, and extracting milk for personal use has caused a storm that refuses to abate.

The dairy industry has pushbacked and said that if he “had a fuller understanding of the contribution of dairy products to a nutritious diet,” he would know of dairy’s contribution to global health and livelihood.

Some baffled viewers have even asked whether Phoenix is a vegan while others want to know more of this man who calls himself a vegan and an animal rights activist.

Joaquin Phoenix’s journey to veganism

On October 28, 1977,  young Joaquin Phoenix embarked on a Miami bound cargo ship to leave Venezuela with his family.

Not only did this journey help his parents flee a religious cult but it also led the entire family to never want to eat meat again.

Phoenix was barely three years old then and in a 2018 interview with Collider, the 45-year-old actor recounted the incident that changed his perspective: “Really it was seeing these fish being killed when I was on a boat as a kid.

“I guess to stun them they were throwing them against the side of the boat. I just had a profound strong reaction. It felt like a real injustice.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I think it made me distrustful, and angry, and frightened of humans, humanity. I just thought it was such a gross abuse of power in a way.

“I think that during that moment we knew that we were not going to eat meat anymore. We said to our parents, “Why didn’t you tell us?” … It became very obvious we weren’t going to eat meat anymore.”