Renowned poet and passionate animal rights advocate Benjamin Zephaniah passed away early Thursday morning (December 7) at the age of 65.

According to a post on Zephaniah’s official Instagram account, he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor eight weeks ago. The statement said Zephaniah’s wife “was with him throughout and was by his side when he passed”.

Zephaniah, a dedicated vegan since his teenage years, ardently championed animal rights. His recent efforts included denouncing the UK’s badger cull and creating a music video to encourage veganism.

In a poignant piece for The Guardian in December 2022, he expressed, “I am vegan because I love animals.” He resolved to shift his language from stating he didn’t eat meat to proclaiming he didn’t consume animals as a New Year’s Resolution.

As an esteemed figure advocating for veganism, Zephaniah served as an honorary patron for organizations like The Vegan Society, Viva!, and EVOLVE! Campaigns. In 2007, he initiated the Animal Liberation Project in partnership with PETA and authored The Little Book of Vegan Poems in 2001.

Born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, Zephaniah moved to London aged 22 and published his first book, Pen Rhythm.

His work was heavily influenced by Jamaica, and as Zephaniah’s profile grew he was credited with bringing Dub Poetry into British living rooms.

He also wrote five novels as well as poetry for children, and his first book for younger readers, Talking Turkeys, was a huge success upon its publication in 1994.

Hi I’m Benjamin Zephaniah and I was born and bred in Brum

Beyond his literary prowess, Zephaniah authored numerous volumes of poetry, novels, children’s books, and plays. His creative endeavors extended beyond writing, showcasing his talents in acting in various film and TV productions, releasing music albums, and collaborating with artists such as Sinead O’Connor and the British house duo Swayzak.

Apart from his dedication to animal rights, Zephaniah was recognised for his multifaceted activism. He vehemently spoke out against homophobia in Jamaica, drawing from his mother’s roots. His personal encounters with racism resonated through his written works, and he collaborated with the anti-racist group Newham Monitoring Project.

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