OBITUARY: Brigid Brophy

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The Independent Online
Brigid Brophy once chided me for complaining of stage fright before a live television appearance in which we were both to defend the rights of animals: ''the subject is far too important for stage fright'', she said. And she meant it, writes Richard D. Ryder [further to the obituary by Giles Gordon, 8 August].

She had been invited by the television company to debate any issue and she had chosen animal rights. This was in 1969 and was, I believe, the first debate on the subject ever televised. Animal rights was not a peripheral interest for her, it was of central importance. She saw speciesism as a prejudice on a level with that against slaves or homosexuals or women - ''unjustifiable by reason and kept in place by superstition and self- interest''. She entered the fray with her essay ''The Rights of Animals'' and when I joined in she introduced me to others in Oxford who were thinking along similar lines. In 1971 we all contributed to the book Animals Men and Morals, the first serious symposium on the philosophy of animal rights for over 50 years. Brophy was the inspiration for this book and it proved to be the spark that fired the whole modern movement at the intellectual level.

Once, she asked me to accompany her to the Headquarters of Amnesty International who were proposing to use pigs in so-called ''torture experiments'' to provide evidence in human torture cases. So inexorable was her power of reason that, after a painful two hours, Amnesty was forced to abandon its plans.

The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) can also bear witness to Brigid Brophy's ''remorseless and tireless efforts on behalf of writers'', writes Janet Hurrell. As far back as 1974, writers were warned that if they insisted on exercising their copyrights individually and this stood in the way of technological advances then society would reduce or remove those rights. Brigid Brophy, Maureen Duffy and Ted Willis moved into action and against many odds the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), a collecting society for writers, was established in 1977. At that time it had no income and no staff. This financial year, ALCS expects to distribute over pounds 6m to writers of books, television and film, all from new sources, such as photocopying, cable transmission and private copying (tape levy).

Brophy had the drive and vision to bring such ideas to fruition and her devotion to writers is clearly shown in the letters now in ALCS archives, in which she deals with the many queries in those early days with incredible care and attention to detail, no matter how trivial the question.