One of the great men of the 20th century
Created by Rosemary Marshall, Trustee, Compassion in World Farming 10 years ago
Peter Roberts was a visionary, one of the great men of the 20th century who took an unpopular cause which none of the established animal welfare organisations would touch and turned it into an ethically motivated, vibrant and dynamic entity. At the same time he was, personally, extremely modest. This is borne out by his speech to supporters in a packed Westminster Hall after he had been forced to relinquish the reins of Compassion due to Parkinson's Disease. "If I have been able to do anything...................................."(!)
To start an organisation whose title embraces its ambitions, "Compassion in WORLD Farming" with very few resources, except the wholehearted support of his wife Anna, bringing an expensive court case against the monks of Storrington Priory who were keeping veal calves in crates, takes considerable courage, dogged persistence and immense hard work. Peter had all three. Again he was told that the EU would never consider bringing the fact that animals are sentient beings into law. For a start a million signatures on a petition were required - no small undertaking in the days before instant communication, and with a moderate number of active supporters. Once again he was undaunted and his objective achieved.
I first saw the strong and forceful Peter, when standing in a lobby queue outside the Houses of Parliament he rushed past concerned that Animal Liberation Front infiltrators were likely to bring our 'middle England' protest into disrepute. They were dealt with extremely firmly and no one was left in any doubt that Compassion in World Farming did not approve of their ways.
The BBC ran a programme honouring individuals and organisations who had contributed to animal welfare. This was after he had 'retired'. Peter and some of the staff were sitting on a table adjacent to the one where I was (representing another organisation). It was wonderful to see this modest man honoured for his efforts of over a quarter of a century. As the disease had progressed by then it must have taken great courage to give a speech to camera. It was also lovely to be one of the first people to congratulate him when he returned to the table.
I can remember Peter saying to me that he was still in touch with some of the earliest supporters of Compassion. I think this meant a great deal to him, and these must have been people who recognised his vision and his worth.
Perhaps my abiding memory of him is urging us all forward in his speech at Westminster Hall. "There is still so much to do............."
Alas this is still so true.