Vocal animal-rights activist and actor Joaquin Phoenix is inserting himself into the case surrounding Asha’s Farm Sanctuary and two head of cattle owned by neighboring New York farmer, Scott Gregson.
The 2020 Oscar winner, who vehemently advocates against “speciesism,” claims to have been a vegan since he was 3 years old — so it’s probably no surprise that he’s using an instance like this to step onto his soapbox.
In a statement released by his social media advisor, Phoenix says that Asha’s owner Tracy Murphy was showing “kindness” to the cattle that she claims wandered onto her property (not stealing them, as the police charges accuse her of).
In the statement, Phoenix says, “To so harshly punish a woman who was simply showing kindness to two individuals who had wandered onto her property is astounding.”
Trooper James O’Callaghan has said that Murphy’s claims about how she ended up with the animals don’t add up. Though she claimed the cattle wandered onto her Newfane, New York, sanctuary, Gregson’s electric fence was working, fencing was intact, and all gates were shut when the steer and heifer disappeared.
Recent reports state that the cattles’ owner, Gregson, showed proof of ownership to state police. Despite this, Murphy, who also identifies as vegan, refused to release the cattle — offering to buy them from Gregson. Murphy was charged last week with grand larceny in the third degree.
Phoenix’s statement in support of Murphy continues, “There was an opportunity here to show compassion and mercy. To allow these peaceful creatures to remain without fear or anticipation of harm for the rest of their lives. …
“What this merciful opportunity was met with was such a shame. I applaud Tracy for standing her ground in the name of animal liberation.”
This rhetoric is nothing new for Phoenix, who infamously spoke against artificial insemination and dairy industry practices during his 2020 Oscars speech. He has also teamed up with extremist groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Animal Legal Defense Fund to attempt to damage livestock production and undermine the food system. (Perhaps Phoenix could use a lesson on byproducts.)
After the cattle went missing from Gregson’s McKee Farms, the Newfane community overwhelmingly sided with Gregson to have the cattle returned and for Murphy to face consequences.
Ed Petitt Sr., a neighbor of Gregson’s, posted on Facebook, “These are the steers ASHA is trying to steal from my neighbor. They are nice, healthy, good stock not because of the few days she fed them while hiding them but because of the excellent care given them by the farmer that raised them to this stage. It takes time, money, hard work, and care to raise animals that look like this. And now she’s trying to keep them.”
Murphy, who was arrested Aug. 2 on the Class D felony, has since been released from jail without bail. Both the steer and heifer were returned to the owner at McKee Farms. It is unclear what charges, if any, she will face in the long run over the two cattle.