Academy Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix, along with dozens of activists, attended a vigil in memory of slain animal rights activist Regan Russell last Thursday night.

Phoenix joined a crowd of over 100 people gathered outside the Smithfield-owned Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, Calif. to pay their respects to Russell, a devoted 65-year-old activist who dedicated much of her life to fighting for animal rights, racial justice, and gender equality.

“Regan Russell spent the final moments of her life providing comfort to pigs who had never experienced the touch of a kind hand,” Phoenix told the Animal Save Movement. “While her tragic death has brought upon deep sorrow in the Animal Save community, we will honor her memory by vigorously confronting the cruelties she fought so hard to prevent by marching with Black Lives, fighting for LGBTQ equality, and living a compassionate vegan life.”

Russell tragically died last month during a peaceful protest outside a Burlington, Ontario slaughterhouse when a truck transporting pigs to the facility ran her over. She regularly attended these weekly vigils, during which protesters said “goodbye” and gave much-needed water to the suffering pigs en route to their slaughter.

This was Toronto Pig Save’s last scheduled protest, following Ontario’s recently imposed “ag gag bill,” which bans protesters from interacting with farmed animals in an attempt to protect the agricultural industry from activists and whistleblowers. In addition to extending compassion to pigs, Russell was protesting the new law, which the animal rights community hopes to see repealed.

“The Ontario government can attempt to silence us with the passage of its Ag-Gag Bill — Bill 156 — but we will never go away, and we will never back down,” Phoenix said. “My heart goes out to the Toronto Animal Save community and to Regan’s lifelong partner, Mark Powell.”

Police are currently investigating Russell’s death, and hopefully, justice will be served.

Joaquin Phoenix animal rights activist