Kath Dalmeny

Since receiving the news of Peter Melchett’s death, I have felt great sadness. I have also talked with others in the Sustain alliance sharing stories of their own loss, and their relationships with a man variously described as powerful, compelling, a mentor, a father figure, intelligent, stubborn and (my favourite) “chuckly”.

I have watched film showing a younger Peter pulling up GM sweetcorn, in his characteristically direct way, wearing an uncharacteristic white boiler suit. And I have enjoyed hearing his distinctive voice and warm chuckle again, in excerpts from Desert Island Discs and environmental news reports. We are privileged that so much will survive of his work, voice and spirit.

For nine years, I served as the consumer representative on the Soil Association’s processing standards committee. I went on to work with Peter and Jo Lewis on the Food for Life catering mark standards committee, developing the systematic approach to improving school and hospital food, step by principled and pragmatic step – building a large-scale market for fresh, healthy, local and sustainable food. For several years, I have also had the great privilege of working closely with Peter, as a member of the steering group for the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics – a role in which he shone.

Reading the obituaries, I have now become far more aware of the breath-taking range of things that Peter threw himself into during his life. These paint a picture of a campaigning free-wheeler, a man who sat on Cabinet, taught biological sciences, read law, campaigned on cannabis, pulled up GM sweetcorn, cut nuclear installation fences, had a family, ran a farm, won wildlife legislation, placed hundreds of legislative amendments, loved curlews, got imprisoned, harangued pharmaceutical representatives about antibiotics, and hugged people and mentored them and chuckled a lot… Extraordinary in so many ways.

I feel gutted that Peter will not live to see a major campaign milestone that is achingly close to being won: a complete EU-wide ban on the prophylactic use of antibiotics in livestock farming. When we eventually celebrate (and the celebration will be roof-raising), then lift your glass to Peter and know that he played an important part in achieving it. And as you think of him, think about what more we can do to honour his memory, and the lives, work and passion of so many of our campaigning colleagues. I feel that the very best tribute to Peter will be to step up the fight for good food, grown well, in a way that means soil, bees, farmers, and yes – curlews – can all thrive.

Alison Reynolds

Peter was a wonderful boss at Greenpeace UK: funny and irreverent on the one hand but prepared to dig very deeply into detail. I had numerous personal experiences of helping to persuade Peter to agree plans that put the organisation at risk in taking direct actions. Oh how we dreaded those “inquisitions” before the go-ahead was given – or otherwise – but the Actions Unit certainly appreciated Peter’s thoroughness and preparedness to go for it, giving us priceless and memorable opportunities to do our “thing”.

Thank You Peter, I learned a great deal from you, Alison

Rosie Boycott

I am so sad to hear of Peter’s death. I never saw enough of him but when I was lucky enough to do so, I was always inspired by his enthusiasm, knowledge and energy. Above all, Peter was always positive. A glass half-full man, who believed we could, together, sort it all out. He was one of a kind and I feel very lucky to have known him.

Maude Winkler 

Peter always took the time to say hello and ask me how I was on a Wednesday morning like all of the Soil Association staff did and still do for those of you that dont know my name is Maude Winkler-Reid and I have been a volunteer at the Soil Association for over 15 years now doing various things but Peter always had such a kind look on his face he was always very friendly and kind and approachable and would always make time to say hi to me xxx

Lizzie Vann

Peter would hate to think we are devastated by his demise, but that was my first reaction on hearing the news. Overwhelmed – how could this be? What a vacuum, a loss, a stunning silence.

Peter was a wonderful man, who made the best possible use of his time with us, a huge gift, and a shining example of a life well-lived. Taking the advantages and handicaps of a privileged start, and giving of himself, and everything he had for progressive causes. But more than that – Peter did his work in a way that ennobled the causes, and built long-lasting confidence in those that worked alongside him.

He taught me so much about the workings of political bureaucracy – gleefully dragging me and Jeannette Orrey in to see the Departments of Health and then of Education, as we laid the long term foundations of Food for Life. Teaching us to argue, reason, and use facts to literally batter the anonymous civil servants who stood in the way of progress. And if that did not work, to leapfrog them and find someone who would listen. His amazing political experience and maverick approach, plus his charisma and wicked sense of humor eventually won over all the obstacles – the supermarkets, the administrators, the politicians. Even Tony Blair.

What I remember most about him was long train journeys as we travelled the country, full of jokes and wicked anecdotes, laughter and kindness. Peter, I cannot believe that you are not part of progress any more. The world is a sadder place without you. But we will honor your legacy by taking your example and tackling all those challenges with humanity, kindness, patience and above all – persistence! You are so loved and so missed.