A supporter of Peace News from the 1950s, my husband David Graham died peacefully at home in April, aged 91.
From the time he was called up for National Service and decided to be a Conscientious Objector (CO), David committed himself to working for peace and social justice. After a year in prison in 1955 for being a CO, where he read about Gandhi, David decided to go to India to meet Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi’s spiritual successor.
David and his friend Ian Dixon wanted to join Howard Steele in sailing out to Christmas Island to prevent the British from testing the atomic bomb. The test did not happen. David then worked in a leper colony in India called Anandavan. (These activities were recorded in PN in 1956 – 1957.)
When he returned to England, David married and had five children. He settled in Bromley, Kent, and was involved in helping US deserters from the Vietnam war. David worked with Oxfam raising funds and awareness of the needs in the world. In 1968, he moved to Manchester and worked with the Centre for Group Studies in deprived areas of the city instilling the ideas of social justice in schools and in the community.
While doing a degree at Manchester university in Politics and Economics, David formed a group called Community Research Action Group (CRAG) which set up a Free School and campaigned against corporal punishment, as well as occupying land to protect Gypsy campsites against bailiffs. David was instrumental in securing the legislation requiring local authorities to set up permanent sites for travellers. Later, David worked with the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO).
Increasingly, however, David’s main area of concern was the suffering of domestic animals. All his adult life, he had been a vegetarian but, in the late ’70s, he became a strict vegan, equating the lorries and train wagons that carry animals to slaughter with the way many of his family members were taken to be murdered in Germany’s concentration camps.
In 1996, David formed a charity, the Vegan Organic Network (VON), whose aims are to produce vegan food by enriching the soil using only methods that do not require artificial fertilisers or the remains of animals. Their magazine, Growing Green International, is read in many parts of the world and online.
His life was well-lived and his wife and children keep to the same values he lived by.