Trivialized by many as a pig movie for children, Chris Noonan’s Babe proved many people wrong and captured the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. The touching story of a cute talking piglet, who wants to become a sheepdog, hit theaters around the world in 1995 and almost instantly went beyond expectations to become a true smash hit, earning over $250 million over the years.
But profit is least important when talking about such story whose emotional warmth can’t be bought with any money in the world. Who would’ve thought that we can learn so much about humans by watching this tiny pink piglet? Its story and adventures profoundly changed the lives of many people who went vegetarian after watching the movie. But no other human being experienced bigger change than James Oliver Cromwell, who portrayed the character of Farmer Hoggett in Babe. The movie that was released more than 20 years ago earned Cromwell an Oscar nomination, but also made him an outspoken vegan and animal rights advocate.
The wider audience knows the legendary actor as “the guy from Babe” but he’s never been too concerned about this because he gave some quite outstanding performances in other iconic movies such as Star Trek: First Contact, The Green Mile, LA Confidential, The Artist, American Horror Story: Asylum.
Cromwell has always been interested in acting and started his career in theater, performing in Shakespearean and experimental plays. His first TV appearance came in 1974 in the Rockford Files and one year later he made his film debut in Neil Simon’s Murder by Death. He appeared in several other films and television series, but finally achieved critical acclaim and got Academy Award recognition for his role as the kindly Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe.
Adapted from Dick King-Smith’s book The Sheep-Pig, the movie takes place in Australia, and it is about a pig who wants to be a sheepdog. The movie is widely considered as one of the best family movies ever made and received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. Cromwell won an Oscar nomination for his masterful portrayal of Arthur Hoggett and, as mentioned above, it was this movie that made him an outspoken vegan and animal rights advocate.
Cromwell had been a vegetarian since the mid-1970s but became an ethical vegan in 1995 while filming Babe. In his interview with TakePart, the actor explains how he came to the decision:
“I was doing a picture in Australia called ‘Babe,’ working with a lot of animals and animal trainers. I cared about their welfare and then, of course, you have lunch and it’s all there in front of you, and I thought, I should go the whole hog, so to speak. So I made that decision and kept that during the shooting. When I came back, I got involved with PETA, and of course, the film opened and it was very successful”.
The actor became involved with PETA’s campaign rescuing pigs from school 4-H programs, and he also appeared in a video that features a hidden-camera investigation at a pork supplier that he claims is used by Walmart.
As reported by the Guardian, in the video presented by animal rights group Mercy For Animals, Cromwell details a hidden-camera investigation which he says has uncovered “torture” at a pork supplier in Minnesota, used by America’s best-known retailer.
In February 2013, James Cromwell was arrested at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for protesting about a school study that the animal rights group PETA says involves “abusive experiments” of cats. He was arrested for the second time in 2015, while protesting against the construction of a power station in Wawayanda, New York, near his home in Warwick. Last year he was among 18 others arrested during a protest against an energy company near Seneca Lake.
Babe inspired Cromwell to take ethical actions for the rights and well-being of animals through his diet and activism.
“I decided that to be able to talk about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian,” he told the Vegetarian Times in 1998.