Remembering Kate Simpson, friend and activist

I knew Kate for nearly 20 years before she died in 2018. Today – 28 June 2020 – would have been her 40th birthday. Below is a tribute I wrote to her that was published in the ALF Supporters Group magazine in January 2019. Some of her other friends contributed as well. This slightly longer version is the first time it has appeared online.

Animal rights activist and anarchist Kate Simpson sadly died in August 2018. Kate decided to end her life aged 38. Though here for all too short a time, she brought joy and inspiration to all who knew her.

Kate was the first person who reminded me I was getting old. I met her in the late nineties when she was still a teenager, just half my age. She got involved in London Greenpeace and London Animal Action. This was the era of success as laboratory animal breeders Consort, Hillgrove and Shamrock shut down and the movement was carried along on a wave of optimism and empowerment. Kate, young and idealistic, was caught up in it.

In April 2002 I was arrested with Kate and my partner Chrissy on an anti-fur protest against Philip Hockley furs in Mayfair, London. LAA had been trying to close this shop for years and they used an injunction to stop us leafleting outside. I remember how, when we got to the police station, Kate refused to do what she was told, standing up, answering back and generally giving the cops a hard time.

The three of us were charged with public order offences but Kate never stood trial as she was already on bail for theft of documents belonging to Roche. A protest against the company by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), due to its links to the notorious vivisector Huntingdon Life Sciences, saw a run-in in which a few documents were taken. In 2001 a website called “RocheKills” went online in which those documents figured prominently.

The company hadn’t been aware of the documents removal until that point but then reported it to the police. Arrests were made and in June 2002 the trial of Kate and two more female activists for burglary lasted two weeks. During the trial it was revealed that following the action Roche had spent £1m on security and used CCTV footage of the demo for staff training.

Kate and the others were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. When Kate was released she didn’t go back to SHAC. She had been closely involved in the group, working at its HQ, but fell out with the leadership. She was a natural rebel and wouldn’t simply do as she was told.

Instead she joined Surrey Anti-Hunt Campaign which had been formed following a near fatal attack on a sab by the Surrey Union Hunt in 2000. Kate went undercover to gather information on the hint, at great risk to her own safety. She did get seriously injured, breaking both her wrists, but this was due to an accident.

In 2003 a cull of hedgehogs began on the islands of North and South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Over 600 hedgehogs were given lethal injections because they were allegedly a threat to the eggs of rare wading birds. Kate was one of many activists who took direct action to stop the slaughter. Scottish Natural Heritage eventually backed down and the rest of the hedgehogs were relocated.

After this Kate went to Manchester and was involved in animal rights there before moving to Cornwall to study for a degree in renewable energy. While there she started Cornwall Animal Action, which is still campaigning to this day.

One day while in Penzance Kate spotted activist Tom Frampton who she’d known from LAA. He was with Christine Green and they gave her a frosty reception. Many years later it was revealed that Christine was an undercover police officer who infiltrated the animal rights movement. Kate was interviewed by Rob Evans, who worked for the Guardian and covered spycops issues, and her account appreared on my blog ARspycatcher.

Kate eventually moved to Edinburgh and in 2015 I met her there while on holiday. She was working for a renewable energy company. We kept in touch and I next saw her at the London Anarchist Bookfair in October 2017. Her belief in anarchist politics never wavered and we had a good time, spending hours chatting and going to workshops.

Sadly it would be the last time we ever met. News of her death stunned me and her other friends but later on I understood I had been privileged to know such an amazing and inspiring person. Rest In Power Kate.

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