Poet, Dreamer, Animal Rights Advocate: Good-Bye to Benjamin Zephaniah


He was an artist and an innovator, a PETA supporter and all-around good guy, and Benjamin Zephaniah made a tremendous impact in this world before his untimely recent passing.

From rightfully pointing out the similarities between his ancestor’s slavery to the exploitation of wild animals in circuses, to calling out speciesism, Benjamin seized every opportunity to spread a message of kindness and compassion and a plea for justice for all. He wrote more than a dozen books of poetry as well as several novels, children’s books, and plays, and is featured in PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s book, One Can Make a Difference.

In an interview with PETA Global, PETA’s quarterly magazine, Zephaniah revealed that he went vegan “for feminist reasons”. He said, “When I was younger, I was around a lot of criminals, and some of them did bad things. But there was always a law that you never take milk from a baby. It was like a moral code, an unwritten rule. And when I was 13, I read something about why females produce milk, and I realised, they produce it for their babies.”

Benjamin amused children and adults with his quirky, but socially spot-on poems and other works. When someone asked him “What do vegans eat?” he would break into a rhyming list of 100 foods from pineapples to potato pancakes, from spinach salad to soybean stew.  Once Zephaniah was asked what he would do if he found himself in a desert with no food in sight, only a cow. He responded, “I’d find out what the cow was eating” and eat that, too.

He remembered when women and animals were derided in the same breath and when pubs brandished “No Blacks” signs, and he fought for all to be recognized as worthy of respect. This wonderful champion of the marginalized and exploited will be sorely missed.

Use Benjamin’s example to spread kindness and compassion yourself.


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