THE animal rights activist who once tried to release Rocky the Dolphin from Morecambe's Marineland in the 80s has died following a "hunger strike" protest.

Barry Horne, 46, died of kidney failure at Ronkswood Hospital in Worcester on Monday morning after refusing to eat in protest at the Government's handling of the recent foot and mouth epidemic.

Horne took part in three hunger strikes while serving 18 years for arson inside Long Lartin High Security Prison. The last hunger strike lasted six weeks and caused irreparable damage to his eyes and his kidneys.

The much publicised abortive rescue of Rocky in Morecambe in the late 80s was Horne's first ever conviction for animal rights activities.

He and two accomplices were arrested as they emerged from Morecambe's Marineland with a home-made stretcher, a ladder and a net. They had tried to capture Rocky so that he could be released into the wild.

The failed rescue bid hit the headlines after it was revealed that Horne planned to transport the 650lb creature in the back of a hired Mini Metro!

He later became a prominent figure in the animal rights movement and was found guilty in Bristol Crown Court of planting incendiary devices.

The authorities fear that Mr Horne's death could lead to to retaliations by militant animal rights groups.

Rocky the dolphin, who was later released when Marineland closed down, and now lives in the Caribbean.