Joaquin Phoenix won't 'force' his son to be vegan

Actor Joaquin Phoenix, 46, says he hopes his son will be a vegan like himself. In a revealing new interview, Phoenix spoke about how he developed his passion for animal rights. (Photo: Toni Anne Barson/WireImage)
Actor Joaquin Phoenix, 46, says he hopes his son will be a vegan like himself. In a revealing new interview, Phoenix spoke about how he developed his passion for animal rights. (Photo: Toni Anne Barson/WireImage)

Joaquin Phoenix is known for his passion for animal rights. But the Joker star says when it comes to raising his son, he doesn't plan to force his vegan lifestyle on his child.

In a revealing new interview with Britain's Sunday Times, Phoenix spoke about how he plans to raise River, the child he and actress Rooney Mara welcomed back in September. The couple started dating in 2016 and became engaged in 2019.

“Well, certainly I would hope that [he is vegan], but I’m not going to impose my belief on my child. I don’t think that’s right. I’m going to educate him about the reality. I’m not going to indoctrinate him with the idea that McDonald’s have a Happy Meal because there’s nothing f***ing happy about that meal," Phoenix said. "And I’m not going to tell him that it’s OK to read books about all the wonderful little farm animals, and they say ‘oink oink oink’ and ‘moo moo moo,’ and not tell him that that’s what a hamburger is. So I’m not going to perpetuate the lie, but I’m also not going to force him to be vegan. I’ll support him. That’s my plan.”

The baby boy is named after the actor's late brother, River Phoenix, who died in 1993 at age 23 of a drug overdose on the sidewalk outside of Johnny Depp’s former West Hollywood club, The Viper Room.

Last year, Phoenix made headlines when he accepted his Academy Award for his performance in Joker, and made a passionate declaration in the name of animal rights. Taking the opportunity to use his voice “for the voiceless,” Phoenix said “we’ve become very disconnected [from] the natural world,” and that “we go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources.”

"We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow,” he told the audience, Best Actor Oscar in hand. “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.”

Phoenix connected his belief in animal rights with the need for equality across the board.

"For me, I see commonality,” Phoenix told the crowd. “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.”

Now looking back on his speech, Phoenix told the Times that he was terrified in the moment.

"I’ll be honest with you here,” he said. “I did not want to get up anywhere and do anything. I was not excited about the opportunity. It’s just not who I am. I was full of fear.”

While he knew it would be easier to say thank you and leave, Phoenix chose to use the moment to speak out.

“I was in that situation and there was a part of me that just wanted to say, ‘Thanks so much, great, goodnight.’ But I felt like I had to," he said. “If I’m up here, I can’t just thank my mum.”

Shortly after the Oscars, Phoenix rescued a cow and her calf from a California beef facility and brought the animals to a sanctuary, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported.

A vegetarian since age 3, Phoenix opened up about how he and his siblings developed their convictions at such a young age. As children, they witnessed fish being stunned against the side of a boat.

“It was such a shocking, visceral experience,” Phoenix recalled. “As a child, your parents just say, ‘It’s fish’ and you don’t know the difference between fish or broccoli. And to suddenly realize that this thing that we’ve eaten once used to be full of life and we can see it struggling for its life.”

He credits two of his siblings for leading the charge.

“My brother, River, and my sister Rain said, ‘If we’re not going to eat this then we shouldn’t take their milk, or wear leather.’ That was 43 years ago," said Phoenix.

Due to their beliefs, the Phoenix children refused to appear in advertisements for companies like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, even though it prevented them from going out for “70 percent” of acting jobs.