PETA UK’s 2014 Person of the Year: Tony Benn Continues to Inspire
Politician, activist, MP and vegetarian Tony Benn may be gone, but his legacy of compassion will long be remembered. To commemorate his lifelong commitment to protecting animals, both within and outside the political sphere, we have named Mr Benn as our 2014 Person of the Year. During his 47 years in office, Benn came to the defence of animals many times, voting against fox hunting in Parliament, protesting against laboratories that conducted cruel experiments on animals and practising what he preached every day by adhering to a vegetarian diet. Described by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband as a “champion of the powerless”, Mr Benn topped a 2006 poll by the BBC’s Daily Politics naming the public’s leading political heroes. “Mr Benn was an outspoken defender of justice, and his advocacy for animals helped open eyes, hearts and minds”, says PETA founder Ingrid E Newkirk. “He has left a lasting legacy of respect for animals, for which we are deeply grateful.” After hearing news of the accolade, Michael Mansfield QC told PETA, “I often stood alongside Tony at meetings and marches on a variety of issues linked to the need to promote justice. His enduring enthusiasm and powerful rhetoric inspired action. Above all he recognised that the violation of animal sanctity was invariably committed by the very same people and in the same manner as the violation of human rights. I know this particular award would have held a special meaning for him”. PETA teamed up with Mr Benn on several campaigns, including calling on the Ministry of Defence to end the killing of bears for The Queen’s Guard’s fur caps. And he opposed vivisection, stating “[t]he tide is turning fast against those who still cling on to the view that experimentation and testing of drugs on animals is valid and necessary”. He was also a vegetarian, explaining, “I never liked meat, and my son Hilary, 30 years ago, said: ‘If the world ate the grain instead of feeding it to animals and killing them, there would be enough food for everybody.’ That moment my wife and I became vegetarian and I never touched meat since”. Since our early days, PETA has taken inspiration from one of Mr Benn’s most celebrated quotations: “First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you”. His legacy still inspires us today, and we’re proud to end 2014 by recognising his many accomplishments. Gone, but never forgotten.
Photo: Tony Benn” by Glastonbury Left Field | CC BY-SA 2.0