One of the Oscars’ most memorable moments this year came with Joaquin Phoenix’s heartfelt plea about the suffering of animals raised for food. The speech, which drew concern for animals into a broader framework of social injustice, followed an A-list nod to plant-based eating from the awards function itself: the Oscars this year served mostly vegan food in an acknowledgement of climate change and one of its biggest contributors, meat production on factory farms.
Hollywood has, in fact, made multiple statements on plant-based eating this year, most notably at awards functions: besides the Oscars, the Golden Globes in January served stars a plant-based menu, and so did the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The plant-based trend in Hollywood is also sweeping the country.
More Americans than ever before are eating plant-based foods. At supermarkets today, plant-based ice creams and meats sit in freezers alongside their traditional counterparts, giving consumers healthier and more humane options. More than half the fast food chains in the country now offer plant-based options, including Burger King, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, Qdoba, Del Taco, or family dining restaurants like TGI Fridays and Denny’s. Even KFC, long synonymous with fried chicken, is testing a plant-based chicken in select markets.
Part of the reason for this switch is that for years, organizations like ours have worked hard to educate consumers about factory farms and the problems they create, for the animals, for people and for the planet. In addition to emitting an extremely high amount of greenhouse gases, exacerbating climate change, these largescale industrialized operations systematically mistreat the animals in their care. Egg-laying hens are packed into battery cages where they can’t even spread their wings; baby calves are taken from their mothers and confined in pens so small they can barely move; and mother pigs are locked in gestation crates only slightly bigger than the width and length of their bodies, unable to even turn around.
The list of problems with factory farming is long and far-reaching, from immense animal suffering to poor labor conditions, as well as water, soil and air pollution, and increasingly, consumers are looking for alternatives. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have been working with the largest food service companies in the world to offer more plant-based meals and have persuaded hundreds of individual colleges, K-12 schools and hospitals to reduce their meat consumption. People who work in the food industry are more open than ever now to making changes that appeal to their consumers and clientele.
In his remarks, Joaquin said that being in the movies allows him to give a voice to the voiceless. We’re grateful that he does, and it is important to remember that as consumers, we all have that power. With our culture changing rapidly and plant-based food becoming more mainstream, it’s easier than ever before to make better choices for the health of our planet, for our own health, and for the animals.