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Fake leather please!

After Hours Correspondent

November 14, 2006

'Gladiator' star Joaquin Phoenix talks about the childhood fishing trip that changed his life.

What made you vegan?
I was 3-years-old - to this day it is a vivid memory. My family and I were on a boat, catching fish. As one fish was caught, he was writhing, then he was thrown against the side of the boat. You couldn't disguise what it was. This was what we did to animals to eat them. The animal went from a living, vibrant creature fighting for life to a violent death. I recognised it, as did my brothers and sisters.

What is your favorite vegan dish?
Tofu and lots of it. I like anything homemade, and if it's organic, all the better. I also love tabouli salad. I don't even really go for the fake meat stuff. I like veggies, straight up. I also wear synthetic stuff, especially shoes. I remember when all I could wear were my Converse canvas All-stars, and now it seems like most shoes are synthetic.

How does animal rights affect your life?
That's just it. Animal rights is a part of my everyday life. When you live by example, you create a certain level of awareness. Friends of mine, people I have never discussed vegetarianism with, are adopting vegetarian habits because they see it.

Does your view of animals affect your career?
Of course, and it has gotten much easier. My lifestyle is part of who I am and therefore is always a consideration when working: I always discuss this with producers, and they are very accommodating. Now there are so many cruelty-free options available, people would be foolish not to take advantage of them. It is also easier to work with computers and animatronics than animals, and that makes a difference, too. Technology has allowed us to recreate animal images - like the tigers in 'Gladiator'.

You are often on the move - is it easier now to find places to eat than before?
Ten years ago, it felt strange to be the only one objecting to fur and asking for vegan stuff, but now doing that is a given. Everywhere I go, I find great vegetarian food. I just got back from Toronto where there was a great health food store, and even this small town in Germany had a vegetarian restaurant.


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