There is no punch line to Joaquin Phoenix‘s dedication to animal rights — which is one reason the Joker star has been named PETA’s 2019 Person of the Year.
A vegan since the age of 3, when he saw a fish caught and killed, Phoenix joins past winners including Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey and Anjelica Huston.
In just the last year, Phoenix appeared on PETA‘s “We Are All Animals” billboards in New York’s Times Square and on Sunset Boulevard, joined California lawmakers to announce legislation banning traveling wild-animal circuses, and cradled a dead chicken as he led a memorial service at a National Animal Rights Day March. He’s the executive producer of The Animal People, a documentary that follows animal rights activists who were suppressed by powerful industry interests and comforted pigs with a drink of water at their last stop before entering a Los Angeles slaughterhouse. “I don’t want to cause pain to another living, empathetic creature,” he explained during his Joker press tour. “I don’t want to take [their] babies away from [them]. I don’t want to force [them] to be indoors and fattened up just to be slaughtered. It is absurd and barbaric.”
Phoenix narrated the groundbreaking animal rights documentary “Earthlings” in 2005 and presented the director, Shaun Monson, with the first-ever River Phoenix Humanitarian Award at PETA’s 35th Anniversary Gala in 2015. He produced the pro-vegan documentary “What the Health” in 2017 and was among the narrators of the animal agriculture exposé “Dominion” in 2018. His decades-long partnership with PETA includes campaigns against the wool (2016), dog-leather (2015), exotic-skins (2013), fishing (2013), and turkey (1998) industries, among others.