Joaquin Phoenix has been named PETA’s 2019 Person of the Year, the animal rights organization announced on Monday.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recognized the “Joker” star for being a vegan since he was three and for appearing on the organization’s “We Are All Animals” billboards in Times Square in New York City and on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles.
Past recipients of the award have been Oprah Winfrey, Anjelica Huston and Pope Francis.
“Joaquin Phoenix never misses an opportunity to turn the spotlight away from himself and onto animals’ plight and to set a great example of walking the vegan walk,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “PETA is proud to kick off awards season by honoring his dedication to showing everyone that when it comes to feeling fear, pain, and love, a human being is no different from a hen or a hamster.”
Earlier this year, Phoenix joined California lawmakers to announce legislation banning traveling wild-animal circuses, and he cradled a dead chicken as he led a memorial service at National Animal Rights Day. PETA also recognized him as the executive producer of “The Animal People,” a documentary that follows animal rights activists who were suppressed by powerful industry interests and that were prosecuted for organizing the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign.
“I don’t want to cause pain to another living, empathetic creature,” Phoenix said during the press tour for “Joker.” “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 also narrated “Earthlings,” the animal rights documentary, 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.