Joaquin Phoenix's Oscars speech slamming cow's milk sparks backlash from dairy industry

Phoenix pleas for animal rights during Oscars speech

The dairy industry is striking back at Joaquin Phoenix’s tirade against milk.

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Phoenix, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor on Sunday for his starring role in “Joker,” used his acceptance speech to voice his qualms with dairy farming, saying humans “go to the natural world and we plunder it for its resources,” promoting animal rights.

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby. We take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal," Phoenix said in his Oscars acceptance speech Sunday.

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby. We take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal. And I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something.”

A spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation responded:

"If he [Phoenix] studied the commitment of dairy farmers to animal welfare and had a fuller understanding of the contribution of dairy products to a nutritious diet, especially for children, he might have a different perception of the value that dairy contributes to global health and the importance of the dairy sector to global livelihood,” Alan Bjerga, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, told FOX Business on Monday.

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It’s not the first time Phoenix made a plea for animal rights activism. The 45-year-old actor urged people to go vegan earlier this month when he led an animal right’s protest in London dropping a banner from the Tower Bridge that read: “Factory farming destroys our planet. Go vegan” ahead of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.

“He’s said these things many times. This wasn’t new to us, but it’s new to many people because he hasn’t’ had a platform like an Oscars acceptance speech,” Bjerga said, adding that he doesn’t anticipate Phoenix’s comments will impact dairy sales or change consumer perception.

Phoenix speech comes amid declining cow's milk sales as more consumers consider dairy-free milk alternatives saturating the market. Indeed, milk sales plummeted to $12 billion in 2019 from $15 billion in 2015, according to Nielsen. Almond milk sales, meanwhile, have grown nearly 6 percent to $1.35 billion while oat milk surged 662 percent to $59.8 million last year, data shows.

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Bjerga doesn't anticipate the "Joker" star's comments to sour consumer preferences in the dairy aisle.

"People buy milk because it’s nutritious and healthy for their families, not because they’re following the thoughts of celebrities using a platform." 

- Alan Bjerga, National Milk Producers Federation spokesman

“We haven’t seen any long-term impact [when comments like these were made previously]. People buy milk because it’s nutritious and healthy for their families, not because they’re following the thoughts of celebrities using a platform,” Bjerga said. "Milk continues to be in 94 percent of refrigerators."

Phoenix wasn't the only star to use his award-winning platform to make a statement. When accepting the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Brad Pitt took a shot at Republican senators who voted against calling witnesses at President Trump's impeachment trial.

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