In February of 2020, actor and influential animal rights activist, Joaquin Phoenix, spent the day after he won an Academy Award rescuing a calf and her mother from a Los Angeles slaughterhouse. A little over one year later, he reflected on the experience in a new short documentary entitled INDIGO, after the name of the rescued calf.

INDIGO was created by Earthlings filmmaker, Shaun Monson, and released by Los Angeles Animal Save on Earth Day. During the documentary, Phoenix describes his discomfort with being at the slaughterhouse citing the smell, the piles of animal hides, and of course, the animals rounded up for their imminent death. The footage that accompanies his telling of that day is difficult but necessary to bear witness to.

After corraling the mother cow into the truck, Phoenix picked up the calf, who he described as “sickly” and “frozen in fear,” to make the rescue as calming as possible. Once everyone was ready to go, it finally came time for the two animals to live out their lives in peace at the Farm Sanctuary.

Phoenix decided to name the cows “Liberty” and “Indigo” after his sister and nephew. The day that he brought them to the sanctuary, he didn’t get to see them “completely liberated” as he had imagined because rescued cows need to stay in quarantine for a few weeks before they can be introduced to the other animals. However, when Phoenix returned one year later, he finally got to see the two cows living their best lives. To his surprise, Indigo was not afraid of him or any of the humans. In fact, she walked right up to him for a sniff and some pets. Liberty, Phoenix’s sister also joined him that day and got to meet the mother cow that shared her name.

The film included facts about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Phoenix explained, “This simple act of rescuing Liberty and Indigo…in some ways, it’s just as simple as sparing the lives of these creatures. But it’s also an acknowledgment of not only the destruction they feel at our hands but the environment as a whole.” He continued, “By our actions, we either have the choice to continue to destroy other beings and the environment, or we begin the process of reversing the damage that we’ve done.”

To learn more about INDIGO, you can watch the Q&A with its filmmakers here.

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