Paul Horsman

It was a sad shock to hear the news about Peter who was so much larger than life. I cannot be at the commemoration tomorrow as I’m too far away, but I will be remembering him during the day. My first knowledge of Peter was before I joined Greenpeace when, as part of the Peace Movement, Peter had joined in the ‘Snowball Campaign’ by cutting the fence at the nuclear base which several people have spoken about. In fact, although I subsequently got to know Peter when I did join Greenpeace, my lasting picture in my mind was of Peter, leaning on a stick talking to a journalist at that fence.

I first met him in person as part of the ‘Wildlife Link’ group I got to known him better when I worked in Greenpeace. I started full-time at Greenpeace about 6 months after Peter became the ED. He was inspiring, fiercely protective of the people and the organisation and consistently had the backs of us all. I can hear his chuckles, see a twinkle in his eye, and remember seeing the long hours he worked. We would come to the office in the morning with notes scribbled on by Peter as to what needed to be done. He believed in what we were all doing with passion – which continued after he left Greenpeace. I will remember him as a kind man, a humble and passionate campaigner and an example for many of us.

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Join us in celebrating the life of Peter Melchett

All are welcome to attend the celebration of the life of Peter Melchett:

10am, Friday 7th December

Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
London SW7 2AR

Register here – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/peter-melchett-memorial-registration-52363777468

Emma Hockridge

I feel great sadness at the loss of Peter. He was a quite extraordinary man and I can’t imagine how life at the Soil Association will be without him. I had the huge privilege of working closely with him for around ten years.

After meeting Peter at various meetings while working in London I was excited to get a job working in his team. I was immediately thrown in at the deep end as a big story on additives in children’s food broke and Peter put me forward to be on the Today Programme just a couple of weeks into my new role. In the end the interview was bumped because Pavarotti died the day before which I was somewhat relieved about!

Soon I did have to do media interviews and many other new activities which seemed a little daunting.  Peter always had the utmost confidence that I would be able to rise to the challenge, and with that support, somehow, I did. I felt I was continually learning under Peter’s patient and encouraging guidance.

I had the pleasure of taking part in all kinds of events with Peter including meetings with ministers and MPs, giving evidence to Select Committees, running events at Clarence House and hospitals, taking organic businesses to Westminster, loads of fantastic farm visits, travelling to far flung research institutions and universities and meetings with big and small businesses alike. Whatever event we went to, Peter always showed the same high level of enthusiasm, charm, incisive questioning, sprinkled with a good dose of chuckling good humour. There were usually plenty of stories about his farm as well!

Peter started, led and worked on a huge number of projects, campaigns and other areas of work across the Soil Association. I’ve put together this little collage of photos of reports and campaign logos which Peter was closely involved in. I’m sure others will spot many I’ve missed! This only covers a fraction of the work he was involved in.

PM

In recent days many current and past Soilies have talked about just how central he was to the organisation. He developed many of the positions we hold, questioned us and held us to account. Alongside all this, he produced a quite prodigious amount of work behind the scenes. Constantly emailing to gain or impart information, writing letters, articles, briefings, editing press releases, comments and reports.

I am thankful that Peter recently saw important leaps forward on some issues he had been closely involved in. They include the landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice that a controversial new generation of genetic engineering techniques will be subject to the same safety checks and product labelling as existing GMOs.

In August a US court ruled against Monsanto on the negative health impact of glyphosate. We also heard recently that the Foston pig farm has closed down. The farm was the centre of what I think was my most memorable piece of work with Peter.

We launched the ‘Not in My Banger’ campaign after we were threatened by the infamous libel lawyers Carter Ruck. The Foston Pig farm owners were trying to open ‘mega’ pig farm which would have housed over 20,000 animals. The campaign included meeting the pig farm owners who offered to show us the proposed site in their private helicopter. Peter politely turned down the offer! We’re still mentioned on the Carter Ruck Wikipedia page, which Peter and I were always quite tickled by.

It’s wonderful to hear how many people also count Peter as a mentor and how many of their stories have a similar narrative to mine. I look forward to sharing more memories of this brilliant man with them and others.

John Little

The 10 December 2012 saw the Daily Telegraph’s leader proclaim an ‘Agricultural Revolution’ to introduce GM crops in the UK. Peter, then at the Soil Association countered with his paper ‘The pro-GM lobby’s seven sins against science.’ Subsequently the Daily Telegraph failed to debate any of Peter’s arguments. With the dismissal of Owen Paterson from Government the threat of GM agriculture receded, although it is still with us. It was Peter who has gained us time to expose the fallacy of GM and the danger it poses.

In an otherwise comprehensive obituary the Telegraph could not help itself into one last cheap shot at Peter, stating that he tried ‘to rid the world of the fruits of scientific progress.’ Clearly an attempt to ridicule his endeavours but I look at it differently, Peter’s works and writings still clearly pose a threat to them and long may they continue to do so.

Elaine Lawrence

I worked with Peter during his time at Greenpeace (I was the campaign director, and then later the board chair). Chris Rose, both a colleague at the time and a good friend, has written a great piece about Peter which is on this site and with which I wholeheartedly agree. Peter accomplished so much in his life both at Greenpeace and elsewhere. As someone who knew him well said to me recently – ‘he lived two lives, not one’. I am very grateful for and awed by all he did and achieved. I am deeply sad about his death and while i remember his great achievements, when i think about him the strongest feeling i have is that he was a good friend to me both in Greenpeace and afterward when, together with Cass, he supported me during a difficult period in my life. Peter was truly a person you could rely on 100%, both personally and at work and someone who took personal responsibility. He was a brave, honorable and kind person. It is a great loss for us all but of course most of all for his family to who i send my sympathies.

William Lana

I first met Peter almost 20 years ago on the Standards Board of the Soil Association. I also experienced him as described by others here: incredibly skilled at working at all levels of policy making (and with all kinds of different policy makers), understanding and generous with anyone genuinely working towards a better future, and razor sharp to ensure that greenwash was trumped with facts.

I most recently worked with him last year on a Sustainable Cotton communiqué which bought together about 20 clothing companies (mine being the smallest by a long way) who recognised that “practical solutions to making cotton production more sustainable exist today” but that “the pace of their adoption is too slow” … And, for me, that was Peter in a nutshell – an eco-accelerator, a change catalyst, a rational, green, super-activist. (now I wish I’d made him an organic cotton superhero costume). He wrapped all of that up in a man who would happily debate the pro and cons of things open-mindedly (I remember one such chat on anaerobic digesters which he wasn’t really a fan of), and someone who was quick to open up and laugh heartedly at himself or a situation (this is what I see when I close my eyes now: Peter squinting and then his bellow of a laugh which was short, robust, and warm).

The world, and the debate, will not be the same with him gone. A mutual friend said “he was working up until very recently, it is what he wanted” and that didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, if I think of him reading this I think he would probably ask us – in a gentle, firm, respectful kind of a way – to “up our game”. “Well done on making those improvements, and I think we can do better, I think future generations compel us to do better”. Thank you Peter. What an honour it was to know you.

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Keith Tyrell

I was away when I heard the news of Peter’s death. It was a great shock and weeks later, I am still sad and reeling. Peter was a huge inspiration for me – long before I joined PAN – I was a fan, following his tireless campaigning. In time, I was lucky enough to work with Peter and he lived up to the image I had of him before I met him – fearless, principled, articulate and driven to make the world a better place. He was fantastic at forensically setting out the case for action and using evidence and facts to demolish his opponents. But he was more than a good campaigner, he was a great human being – thoughtful, supportive and always willing to spare time to help others. The environment has lost a great champion, but we have lost a friend.