following was taken from Veggies website where a memorial
page has also been created for Neil. You can find it at http://www.veggies.org.uk/page.php?ref=1107
Lea was an extraordinary man. Each day was a battle to overcome
his, sometimes very painful, illness to get on with his tireless
campaigning for animal rights. The loss to our movement is
immeasurable. But Neil's strength and determination should
inspire us all to continue the fight - no matter how tough
died at 6.08 on Tuesday July 10th. His death was very peaceful.
As many of you know he had quite a few health problems, and
in the end his kidney failed and there was nothing they could
do other than make him as comfortable as possible.
Funeral took place on Saturday 28th July. There was a gathering
to remember Neil, and celebrate his life, in Parr Fold Park,
Walkden, followed by a funeral procession to the cemetery.
It was a very sad and moving event, but at the same time uplifting
and empowering. Over 200 people took part in the march to
the cemetery, with more who just went straight there.
was laid to rest at City Rd Woodland Cemetery, Worsley, Manchester
M28 1BD, an environmentally-friendly woodland burial in a
beautiful location. After the burial there was a reception
and social event, with vegan food and a bar. Many fellow campaigners
shared in the day, whether or not they knew Neil personally.
message from Mary
just wanted to thank everyone who has visited Neil throughout
his last illness. Up until last Thursday he was resolutely
determined that he would not die, because he had things he
wanted to do. The doctors had been predicting his death for
months, but Neil simply refused to die. He struggled on for
over a year with three different kinds of anti-biotic resistant
superbugs, horrendous pressure sores caused by neglect in
the hospital, and later on esophageal ulcers. Through it all,
he gave advice to aspiring vegans, including one young man
with spina bifida, who he gave potentially life saving advice
to (simple stuff which the doctors only told him about after
his kidney failed.) When we moved to a more suitable house,
built for Neil by a friendly vegan, he enjoyed the raised
garden (built by Debbie) which he could weed and plant in
recent weeks he was still teaching our son Seamus maths and
computer skills (something he was far better at than me) even
though by then he was bed-bound. Young friends of our lad's
used to come into the house to see the cats and dogs, and
Neil enjoyed telling them about how to show their respect
for animals... one very puzzled mother came up to me asking
why her daughter (eight years old) kept insisting she was
vegan, and refusing to go into McDonald's. We would get excited
little children coming into the house after school or on a
weekend, to tell him that they had saved a worm or a snail
by putting them on the grass. Our son and these kids would
take our little dog Ginty for walks together, and I feel that
these kids will remember Neil for a long time. No matter how
restricted his life became, he looked about him to see something
he could do, someone he could reach, even when he was stuck
on a specialised hospital bed in the living room. In recent
weeks he so impressed one of our neighbours that I was invited
to talk to her disability group about the benefits of the
vegan diet. The talk had to be postponed, because Neil went
into hospital, but it has been rescheduled, and I promise
to do him proud.
you all know, Neil was incredibly focused, and he didn't just
campaign for a few hours a week... his entire life was based
on an urgent need to compel compassion. He worried a lot about
the human species, and what we are doing to the world, but
he never allowed himself to become discouraged. The movement
did him proud this last year, and to all who visited him,
who cooked for him, who held him upright to ease his breathing
as he got weaker over recent weeks, who made him laugh even
in the last week, when things looked very bleak indeed - and
especially to Bob, Debbie and others who built a house for
him (!) what can I say but thank you.
movement is as strong as its' love and compassion. I think
the movement is looking pretty strong.
from Mary Lea:
Mam has been overwhelmed by the compassion and love shown
to her son while he was dying. In recent weeks she has been
coming to understand what drove Neil's compulsion to help
the animals, and it has been a great source of comfort for
her to learn that the movement that became his life was so
compassionate, and thought so highly of him. Could people
please write to her and express their condolences, to this
woman who raised a fantastic son, and loved him through thick
and thin, even when she didn't always understand what motivated
him. She sat by his bed for the last week of his life, holding
his hand, and in that last week she saw so many people who
cared for her son, and she learned so much about what motivates
us. Doreen is 74, a widow who has lost her only child. For
Neil, who always worried about her, could you write and let
her know how proud we all are of him, and how grateful we
are for him.
was an extraordinary man. Each day was a battle to overcome
his, sometimes very painful, illness to get on with his tireless
campaigning for animal rights.
spina bifida, Neil recognised that his life expectancy was
below average and lived his life accordingly, impatient and
determined to make a positive difference. His vision, moral
courage, tenacity and strategic insight made him a great campaigner.
remained ambitious to the end and rarely talked about his
illness, unless asked, or even his past achievements but instead
focussed intensely on his next project.
loss to our movement is immeasurable. But Neil's strength
and determination should inspire us all to continue the fight
- no matter how tough it gets.
love you Neil.
Neil devoted his life to the cause of animal liberation, despite
suffering from a serious physical disability and being in
pain for much of the time.
We are fighting a very difficult struggle against extremely
powerful, evil enemies and it can be very easy to feel despondent
If we ever do, we should remember how Neil battled courageously
and relentlessly against all the odds and use his example
to inspire us never to give up and never to let the bastards
grind us down.
The best memorial to Neil will be the victories we shall achieve
in our ceaseless efforts to liberate animals from human tyranny.
Neil helped raise my son Seamus for five years. Mary and I
used to be married, but we'd split up amicably by the time
Mary and Neil got together. I've always thought that taking
on someone else's child is a difficult thing to do - particularly
to do well.
I think he did it brilliantly. I never really knew Neil, but
people who did have told me that to see the two of them together
for a few seconds would tell you how well Neil and Seamus
got on. Mary and Seamus may have only had five years with
Neil, but I believe that the impact he's had on them is far
greater than the time he spent with them.
For me I'll always think of him as a man who did his best
for my son and I'll always be grateful to him for that.
I was shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Neil,
who was a friend through the 70's and 80's. My memories are
different to those that I have read but I have always been
aware of the good work that he has been doing.
I remember Neil from holidays in Ibiza and nights out in the
clubs of Manchester to mention just a few. Even then Neil
was the organiser, arranging trips out to night club, fancy
dress parties or days out playing paint ball.
Another side of Neil was the sports organiser, where he used
to run a football team in the Eccles and District league and
was the only person daft enough to pick me for his team, (only
once though). He was also the secretary of Irlam Hornets rugby
team, obviously he liked to keep himself busy.
It was good to see Neil to go on to use these organisational
skills and determination for more worthy causes than just
our leisure time.
My thoughts go out to his family at such a sad time and obvously
Neil will be sorely missed by many; I can only say thanks
for the memories.
Kirk Allen & lot of other mates from the Eccles area.
I am very sorry to have heard the sad news about Neil. I remember
the days at Hill Grove and what an inspiration he was, and
will always be.
Inspirational, hard working, tenacious to the extreme and
an endless source of knowledge and wisdom. A seemingly never-ending
source of compassionate energy has come to an end. It's a
great loss. I've known Neil for a very, very long time and
on more than one occasion found his energy and drive somewhat
overpowering but at the same time his bloody-mindedness helped
to spur me on. He'll be missed more than he could ever know.
Peace, love and respect
I am so so sorry to learn about Neil. He was an amazing person
and I shall always remember him. I'm sure he will be moving
on to his next life doing just as much good, and possibly
I only met Neil a few times at demos and vegan gatherings.
He was knowledgeable and always willing to share that knowledge.
The whole movement will be an emptier force without his zealous
endeavours. He will be missed by all. He was a great human
being and inspired others to help the voiceless and defenceless
in our cruel society. He clearly worked tirelessly despite
his own physical limitations.
Love and best wishes to Mary and Seamus
Neil Lea will be so missed
by Sophie Fenwick-Paul, from http://www.activeg.org
Neil Lea is one of the biggest names in veganism. It is a
huge loss to the movement that we no longer have this active
Have you heard of vegan free food fairs? Neil and his wife
Mary invented them, and have shown countless others around
the country and beyond how to positively veganise.
He was the main force behind the RealFood campaign and Vegan
Buddies, with Mary there with him.
If you ever spoke to this man you will have known that despite
his congenital pain and poor health he kept helping to make
things better for animals, people and the planet with strength
and commitment. His doctors were amazed he lasted so well
and long despite his condition. He was generous in spirit
and supported like-minded people everywhere.
Mary and he were and are a great and committed couple. We
wish Mary many happy memories and the support of everyone.
The vegan/animal rights community has lost one of it`s greatest
campaigners with the untimely death of Neil. He was a tower
of strength and an example to us all. I knew Neil some fifteen
years and we used to have long chats on the phone about how
to take the vegan movement forward. In the early-90`s it was
through Neil`s inspiration that London ARC was formed. He
also directly influenced the foundation of the London free
food fairs which have proved to be so popular. Neil was a
unique individual, a rarity, and a truly great person....we
shall all miss him. My thoughts go out to Mary, Seamus, Doreen
Neil was just the most incredible campaigner I've ever met,
an inspiration to hundreds if not thousands of people to get
active. His contribution to AR and veganism in this country
is unmatched and his example and sacrifices have brought an
end to animal suffering years closer.
Bruce Lee said that a man's life is measured not by its length
but by its depth. Many amazing people who were pivotal in
creating a movement have been taken before their time. The
finest memorial we can give Neil is to get stuck in to finishing
the job for him and support Mary and Seamus.
Redditch Vegetarians & Vegans have dedicated our latest
newsletter to the memory of Neil. Thanks to Neil`s constant
support & encouragement, we held our first free vegan
food fair in October 2005 when RVV was formed. He was truly
inspirational & is such a sad loss, but we`re glad he`s
no longer suffering. RVV will endeavour to continue Neil`s
fantastic work. RIP Neil.
I met Neil first in the early 1990ies in England, when he
started the Animal Rights Coalition of grass roots groups
to support each other. I had a hard time understanding his
Manchester accent, but he impressed me with his determination
and energy. I fully agreed with his ideas behind ARC and came
to every meeting and supported his cause as much I could.
Sadly, when I had to leave England for good many years later,
I never had the chance to see him again, even though we were
in occasional mail contact. A truly inspiring person, who
will be missed very much.
Martin from Austria
We will miss you Neil. A truly passionate, compassionate,
caring person who worked so hard in the never ending fight
to free our brothers and sisters enslaved in the hellholes
of all the animal abusing industries.
I will always remember meeting Neil on my first real demo.
here was a guy who despite obvious personal health problems
was still committed to fighting the good fight and leading
by example, You inspired me to spend the next six and a half
years at the gates of that other hell hole Newchurch Farm.
A truly inspirational human being. We won't let you down Neil
the fight goes on. Take care on your Journey...... We rescue
the ones we believe in...We care evermore in our grieving...Parting
is our sorrows work...Make there voices heard.
Neil has for decades been one of the most dedicated campaigners
in the movement. All in Nottingham and at Veggies Catering
Campaign, who knew Neil from the campaigns we have been mutually
involved with over the years, will miss his constant support
Neil got active in the animal rights movement at a time when
it was becoming fragmented. He had a vision of building a
strong movement based on local grassroots groups who communicate,
share ideas, and travel to support each other's demos. He
worked tirelessly compiling ARCnews and arranging national
meetings, and there were some amazing victories over the last
two decades as a direct result of all his hard work.
His idea of free vegan food fairs was revolutionary, and events
like the East Midlands Vegan Festival would not have happened
without all his help and support.
Such a great loss to the movement.
He was so full of ideas and a man of action despite his difficulties.
Im so glad I knew him.
My thoughts are with Mary at this sad time.
So, so sad, and a tragic loss to the movement, in the early
day's I used to get ARC News, and it inspired me to go on
my first demo at Hillgrove, ARC News was my answer to the
thirst for knowlege of all area's of animal abuse. Thoughts
are with Mary and his family right now. RIP Neil.
Anyone who spent any time around Neil soon became aware of
his dedication, compassion, determination, and practical approach.
I always looked forward to his 'ARC News deadline' calls when
he would calmly reveal some great new project and enthusiatically
offer his support for anything else I would suggest.
The trials his health put him through are humbling: he just
got on with everything and never let anything stop him doing
whatever he was capable of. Inspirational. People like him
are extremely rare and he will be sadly missed. I hope anyone
who remembers him will also remember his determination and
the things he acheived. Especially the vegan and ARC News
websites, and the thousands of Hillgrove cats, Consort beagles
and Newchurch guinea pigs that escaped vivisection with his
help and the coordinating efforts he put in.
I've known Neil for over ten years and over that time we've
had fall outs and arguments, but even though Neil could be
a bloody grumpy old thing :O) we always had the greatest respect
for each other. I remember after one such spat, Neil made
me laugh by saying "Maz you don't like me, I and I don't
like you but we respect each other cause we do it, don't we"
- and that was Neil honest, bloody honest, you got what you
saw with Neil: no bullshit. He said it as it was, and god
he got things done, where he got the energy from and the commitment
to the cause. After that spat we became friends, but sadly
I didn't see alot of Neil when I moved to Brighton, but then
I knew he'd pop up here and there...
Neil, yer grumpy old bugger, you'll really will be missed,
especially by this grumpy old git. Only the good die young
and no matter how yer tried to hide it we all knew yer was
love and peace, Maz
East Sussex Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service
Neil was a one off, determined, organised and tactically astute
... and yes sometimes a bit argumentative :-) ... the huge
amount of energy he put into building up ARC and ARC News
(to mention just 2 of his projects) helped define Animal Rights
in this country and beyond for more than a decade and inspired
some of the greatest campaigns we've known.
Throughout all this he struggled against massive health problems
which would floor most of us, without complaining or feeling
sorry for himself. Neil's legacy is the many thousands of
animals whose lives have been saved by his work and those
Anyone who saw Neil in his last days will tell you how physically
weak he had become, but his spirit *burned* strongly to the
end even though his body had given up ... I only wish I had
a fraction of Neil's spirit and determination ... you were
so tough, we always thought you'd go on forever Neil ... you
will be sadly missed brother!
Much love and respect to Mary and Seamus
Bloody-minded, argumentative, insisted on calling me "the
old man" ... one of the absolutely, truly dedicated folk!!
Great bloke, a great loss ...
I've just heard the sad news that Neil Lea died this afternoon.
Neil always seemed to draw the short straw when it came to
health, yet he always battled on no matter what was thrown
at him and he was always determined to keep fighting for the
animals. He never gave up and is an inspiration to us all.
He will be missed.
Very sad news indeed. Despite all the physical problems he
had, he never stopped fighting for the animals. He will be
sadly missed. Many so called animal rights campaigners could
learn from his dedication and his fighting spirit.
He was a true warrior for the animals.
What terrible news.
I've never met Neil, but knew him through Mary; also for years
I got the ARC News. He will be sadly missed.
Damn, Neil was a fab guy who did fantastic things despite
his physical problems. We could all do with looking at what
we accomplish with our healthy bodies & see how it fades
in comparison with the fighting spirit & dedication Neil
showed. Losing him makes a big dent in our movement &
in the lives of those of us that knew him!
Another here who thinks that this is a terrible loss to the
A very sad day indeed.
Best wishes to Mary.
I will always remember Neil on marches /demos etc. with his
shopping bag on wheels selling vegan fudge bars. When I first
got involved with A.R many years ago I remember telephoning
Neil for some anti Boots leaflets, by the time we finished
our conversation I had committed myself to organising my first
roof top demo and overcoming my fear of heights .
He was an inspiration and so knowledgeable.
What a man. He will be so missed.
was born with spina biffida, and has suffered ill-health all
his life as his spine has interfered with his internal organs,
leading to further serious health problems, including the
kidney failure which caused him to need dialysis.
all this, for the past 16 years he has been one of the most
active animal rights campaigners the movement has ever seen.
His energy and dedication has been an inspiration to many.
Through RealFood and Vegan Buddies there are hundreds, maybe
thousands more vegans in the world. With ARC (Animal Rights
Coalition) and ARCNews he has been a major influence in the
coordination and organisation of the movement. He was one
of the founders and inspirers of the successful SNGP campaign,