Joaquin Phoenix saves cow and calf from slaughterhouse

Catherine Shoard

Few would have anticipated the most memorable line from this year’s Oscars would involve the artificial insemination of cattle. But Joaquin Phoenix’s lengthy acceptance speech after winning the best actor Oscar for Joker was unusually specific and pointed in its attack on both farming practices and the general public for tolerating them.

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby,” he said, “even though her cries of anguish are unmistakeable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

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His speech was warmly received, with many praising Phoenix’s bravery in making his audience uncomfortable. Lena Dunham later tweeted that his words had turned her vegan.

On Thursday a video emerged of Phoenix rescuing a cow and her three-day-old calf from a slaughterhouse in California, less than 48 hours after delivering that speech.

The Farm Sanctuary footage shows Phoenix, accompanied by his mother, Heart, visiting the Manning Beef facility in Pico Rivera along with representatives of the Sanctuary and a delegation from the Los Angeles Animal Save activist group.

There, Phoenix speaks to Anthony Di Maria, the CEO of the slaughterhouse, who tells the actor his policy of never killing mothers and newborns. The pair engage thoughtfully, with a lengthy semantics debate involving Di Maria calling the killings “harvest” and Phoenix “murder”.

They then escort the mother and her three-day-old, who was born in the slaughterhouse, into a truck. Phoenix names them Liberty and Indigo.

In a statement, Phoenix said: “I never thought I’d find friendship in a slaughterhouse, but meeting Anthony and opening my heart to his, I realise we might have more in common than we do differences. Without his act of kindness, Liberty and her baby calf, Indigo, would have met a terrible demise.

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“Liberty and Indigo will never experience cruelty or the touch of a rough hand. My hope is, as we watch baby Indigo grow up with her mom Liberty at Farm Sanctuary, that we’ll always remember that friendships can emerge in the most unexpected places; and no matter our differences, kindness and compassion should rule everything around us.”