Covid claims ‘passionate’ animal rights campaigner

Friday, 29th January 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Denise Bennett

Denise Bennett

A PRIMARY school teacher and avid animal rights campaigner who worked hard to help those in need has died after contracting Covid-19.

Denise Bennett, who died aged 78, lived in Monsell Road and campaigned against live animal exports.

Friends say there is a “cruel irony” in the fact she died from a virus believed to have sprung from the mistreatment of animals she spent decades campaigning against.

She ran the Islington Animal Rights group in the 80s which became subject to the “spy cops” scandal – one campaigner launched legal action after finding out a man she had had a relationship with was an undercover police officer.

Ms Bennett, who was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and suffered from sciatica, was admitted to the Whittington last month where it is said she contracted Covid-19.

“She was very intelligent and had loads of stories to tell,” said friend and animal rights activist Niz Khan. “She was frightened of Covid. It was almost like she had a premonition. Every pandemic we have ever had comes from the way we treat animals. It is an irony that someone like Denise died from it.”

Ms Bennett helped rescue animals, get them neutered and find them foster homes. Near the end of her life she had one pet of her own, her cat Lucy.

She grew up in St Thomas’s Road and after university travelled to India, Sydney and Indonesia where she lived and worked as a teacher.

On returning to the UK she became a teacher at William Tyndale Primary, Upper Street, and then at Montem Primary School in Hornsey Road for many years until her retirement.

Her friend Angela Clare first met Denise on the way to a protest in 1982. Together they volunteered at an animal rights shop in Upper Street.

She said: “She was passionate and compassionate about animals and wanted a kinder world. She had a deep and rich life.”

One neighbour said: “The pigeons in our back garden must have been the best fed in Finsbury Park. She had names for them all.”

Trudie James, who runs a dog rescue centre in Nottingham, said: “Her ethos in everything was to help those in need and be a warrior – a real old-fashioned warrior.

“She always had a lot to say for herself and she was so full of life and energy. She was very inspiring. She was a larger than life personality.”

Ms Bennett leaves behind her sister Carol Kreps.

People, not statistics

EVERY day, we are now given a grim figure of how many people are in hospital or have died from Covid-19.

At the Tribune, we have resolved not to see these numbers purely as graphs and statistics – they represent real people, some of them are neighbours.

That’s why throughout this awful pandemic we have tried to write about the lives of as many as possible.

We know some families will want to remain private but for others our coverage is a chance to celebrate the people we have lost. Too many loved ones are already gone, and without proper send-offs due to the restrictions on service gatherings.

If you would like us to write about a relative or a friend who has died from Covid, please contact the reporters by emailing or call 020 7419 9000.

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