Sonia Horon, Global Animal

In a controversial new PETA commercial, award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix puts himself into the position of the 1 trillion fish who are killed each year by the fish industry. In the video, shot by famous shark photographer Michael Muller, Phoenix narrates, “In water humans drown, just as fish suffocate on land. It’s slow, and painful, and frighting.”

Actor Joaquin Phoenix urges people to go vegetarian. Photo credit:
Actor Joaquin Phoenix urges people to go vegetarian. Photo credit:

The Master star carries out possibly one of the scariest parts of his career as he desperately trashes underwater, each failed breath further filling his lungs with water. The ad brings awareness to the fact that we often choose to separate fish from land animals simply because they’re different. Yet there is no difference in any animal on this earth, whether its human or fish, when it comes to feeling pain.

Phoenix, an avid animal activist, was inspired to do the commercial by a childhood event. “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 recognized it, as did my brothers and sisters.”

Last year, PETA also shot a powerful anti-fishing ad, featuring the silent scream of a fish. The commercials shed light on the fact that just because fish don’t have fur, and can’t bark, meow, or scream for help, doesn’t mean they feel any less pain.

PETA informs,”Fish are smart, interesting animals with unique personalities, and just like dogs, cats, and humans, they feel pain. Scientists who study pain are in complete agreement that the pain response in fish is basically identical to the pain response system in mammals and birds…Without any legal protection from cruel treatment, these complex animals are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while they’re conscious.”

Unfortunately ABC is refusing to run the ad during the Oscars telecast because it has been deemed it too “political and controversial.” What is controversial is the fact that millions of fish are brutally slaughtered every year. Marginalized even by many animal lovers, fish have no voice in our society. Let’s hope this commercial is a good step in changing that.

Watch the video below.