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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK


Lord Melchett: Aristocrat eco-warrior

The fourth Lord Melchett is lead away by police

Lord Peter Melchett, Labour peer and executive director of Greenpeace UK, is probably experiencing the most inactive period of his adult life.

Arrested for his part in the dawn raid on a farm trialling GM crops and charged with theft and criminal damage, the Old Etonian was refused bail by a stipendiary magistrate in Norwich on Tuesday.

The 51-year-old aristocrat eco-warrior is well-known for his dedication to the green cause, although his political and activist career has tended to be within the law.

Young Lord

He inherited his title aged 23 when his father Lord Julian, chairman of British Steel, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1973.

[ image: Greenpeace activists vandalised the trial crops]
Greenpeace activists vandalised the trial crops
He toyed with the idea of renouncing it, but instead entered politics as a Labour peer, making his maiden speech in the Lords about cruelty to animals in zoos.

His great-grandfather, then Sir Alfred Mond, and the founder of ICI, had already indelibly linked the family name with both socialism and activism.

As head of the World Foundation of Jewish Sports Clubs, he recommended a boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

Sir Peter became a whip, and then a junior minister - in environment and industry under Harold Wilson, and in Northern Ireland under Jim Callaghan.

Voted for abolition of Lords

From 1976-79 he chaired a working party on pop festivals, and still is a regular at Glastonbury.

He withdrew from the Lords when he took up a position on the board of the environmental organisation - but returned to vote for its abolition.

His concern for the environment started in his youth on the family's 750-acre estate, Courtyard Farm, on the north Norfolk cost.

He said: "On our farm, partridges went down from their hundreds to tens and you'd see the chicks dead in the fields.

[ image: Brent Spar ended in controversy for Greenpeace]
Brent Spar ended in controversy for Greenpeace
"I remember being told that it was because of the drought or the weather; now we know it was the pesticides."

His father, Lord Julian and mother, socialite Sonia Sinclair, were keen preservers of hedgerows at Courtyard Farm.

Lord Melchett normally cycles to work at Greenpeace HQ from his home in North London, which he shares with his partner Cassandra and their two teenage children.

He is known for always arriving late - but tends to stay late into the night to carry out the work he has been doing for the past decade, and which often takes him all over the world.

He has seen Greenpeace through its lows - with inaccurate measurements taken from the Brent Spar oil platform - and its highs - the campaign against genetic engineering is the organisation's longest, and it says, the most popular.

Energetic and dedicated

The organisation holds him in high regard. Spokeswoman Mirella Von Lindenfels said: "He does not really regard himself as a leader, he sees himself as a small cog within the worldwide Greenpeace, he does not appear to see himself as an important person at all.

"He is energetic and thoroughly dedicated. He has a great deal of experience and he is indefatigable."

He is known to his colleagues simply as Peter, and like all of its activists will receive legal and moral support throughout his detention.

Ms Von Lindenfels said: "Peter, like the others who were arrested, is highly trained in non-violent direct action, and he will be fully supported by Greenpeace.

"He feels, as so many people do, very, very strongly about the issue of GM crops and technology."

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