He spent eight years in the Norwood Jewish children’s home from the age of six following his parents’ divorce, but the writer and animal rights campaigner, Andrew Tyler, who has died aged 70, grew from this broken childhood into a man of rare sensitivity and compassion.
Tributes were paid to his “inspirational leadership” and integrity by Animal Aid, of which he was the director for 22 years until 2016. The League Against Cruel Sports expressed their own deep sadness at his death.
Tyler made an unusual transition from rock journalist to animal-rights campaigner. He launched his career in 1973 on the weekly New Musical Express (NME), and later Time Out, as news features editor interviewing such rock and pop royalty as Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon.
Tyler was born in Hackney, the son of Sylvia née Weiner, who worked in the fashion industry and Newman Meider, a piano tuner. They divorced and Sylvia married Joe Tyler, but Andrew and his brothers Mitch and Nick were sent to Norwood.
Tyler looked back on himself as a “skinny, anxious boy” with a “repertoire of tics, jerks, blowing and sucking.” He left school at 14 and worked as a tea boy on the Drapers & Fashion Weekly, eventually becoming a junior reporter. He travelled to Canada and America, enjoying California’s 1967 Summer of Love, but returned to London in 1971 to join Disc and Music Echo before landing the job at NME.
Exhilarated at first by scoops and his part in the whole rock’n’roll experience, a shift towards social issues made Tyler reject the narcissistic, drug-fuelled world in which he had been so involved. Instead, he joined Time Out in the early 1980s and wrote extensively on the homeless, travellers and addiction, branching out into animal welfare, too. But it was the years on those weeklies that attracted the attention of Fleet Street and, in the 1980s, commissions followed, from the Guardian, the Observer and the Independent for in-depth and controversial articles.
In 1978 he met a divorcée, Sara Starkey and her young son Davy. Their marriage 10 years later, providing the loving family home-life he had so craved.
In 1984, he wrote a series for NME on drug use, which led to his book, Street Drugs (1988). His Time Out article on a deprived London zoo elephant inspired Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers to found the Born Free foundation.
He wrote Slaughterhouse Tales for the Independent which generated public shock and abhorrence. As director of Animal Aid he found the strength to overcome his early anxiety issues to campaign vigorously for endangered animals of all breeds, but Parkinson’s Disease forced his retirement in 2016.
His memoir My Life as an Animal, is due to be published this year. Tyler chose to end his life at Switzerland’s Dignitas Clinic in April. He is survived by Sara, Davy and his brothers Mitch and Nick.
Andrew Tyler: born September 8, 1946. Died April 28, 2017