Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah (15 April 1958 – 7 December 2023) was a British writer, dub poet, Rastafarian and passionate vegan. He was a much-loved Viva! patron and was included in The Times list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers in 2008.

On 7 December, 2023, Benjamin Zephaniah died of a brain tumour. Poet, writer, musician, composer, actor, Viva! patron and media man, Ben leaves behind a history of talented protest,
compassion and a refusal to compromise. What a fantastic legacy.

At just 11, he went vegetarian and at only 13, he completed the journey and gave up dairy products. The transition was sudden: “I decided I wanted to disturb the animal kingdom as little as possible but it was sometimes difficult to explain why.”

Despite a very difficult start in life, and not learning to read or write until the age of 21, he became a renowned poet and activist. The word that sums up his beliefs best is justice – and it shows in the wide range of civil and animal rights organisations he  supported, including the South African revolution with money-raising tours. When Benjamin Zephaniah spoke, the
words didn’t come out like they do from any other person. For a start, there were always a lot of them and he could turn a conversation about tax returns into a stream of consciousness that lilted, crooned, purred and modulated like a stream running over pebbles. He was a very gifted man and we will miss him.

“I’ve never been tempted to give up veganism in 27 years.”

“One day when I was 11, I asked my mother where did meat come from and she said from the butcher and I said where did the butcher get it from and she said the farmer and I  said where did the farmer get it from and she said the cow and I said where did the cow get it from and she said – it is the cow! A shudder went through me!”

Benjamin Zephaniah

Scroll up