Born in Leeds in May 1932, she won a scholarship to Roundhay High School for Girls and after training to be an English teacher became, at 25, the youngest head of a school department in the county.
In 1966, after a break to start a family, she joined the English department at Buttershaw Comprehensive School in Bradford. She later became an examiner and moderator with various examination boards.
It was in retirement, from 1980, that she threw herself into animal welfare, working to improve the lot of beasts on factory farms and vivisection laboratories. A committed Christian, she realised that the Church had a role in teaching compassion for creatures, and in 1985 founded Animal Christian Concern.
It held its first Cathedral service in 1986 at York Minster, where the then Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev John Austin Baker, preached to an congregation of more than 700. Similar services followed in Leeds parish church and the Cathedrals of Ripon, Salisbury and Canterbury, and she found herself in demand as a broadcaster on the subject. As word of the organisation spread, similar societies were founded in South Africa and the USA.
May is survived by her husband, Harry, son, Jonathan, and by grandchildren and great grandchildren.