Poet, Dreamer, Animal Rights Advocate: Goodbye to Benjamin Zephaniah
He was an artist and an innovator, a PETA supporter, and all-round good guy – Benjamin Zephaniah made a tremendous impact in this world before his recent, untimely passing.
From rightfully pointing out the similarities between the enslavement of his ancestors and the exploitation of wild animals in circuses to calling out speciesism, Benjamin seized every opportunity to spread a message of kindness and compassion and make 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 he is featured in PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s book One Can Make a Difference: How Simple Actions Can Change the World.
In an interview with PETA Global, PETA’s quarterly magazine, Benjamin 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 alike with his quirky but socially spot-on poems and other works. If someone were to ask him what vegans eat, he would break into a lyrical list of 100 foods, from pineapples to potato pancakes and spinach salad to soybean stew. Once he was asked what he would do if he found himself in a desert with a cow and no food in sight. “I’d find out what the cow was eating,” he responded, saying he’d 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 recognised as worthy of respect. This wonderful champion of the marginalised and exploited will be sorely missed.
Follow Benjamin’s example and use your voice to spread kindness and compassion.