On the 1st May 1997, libel writs were served on Niel Hansen (a leading member of the National Anti-Hunt Campaign) by the John Lewis plc (owners of the Waitrose supermarket chain) over a leaflet titled 'John Lewis Wildlife Killers'.
The NAHC leaflet was intended to inform Waitrose customers that despite promoting itself as an ethical, caring and compassionate company, the reality is somewhat different with John Lewis staff blasting away at wildlife at shooting estates owned by the company.
The basic claims of the leaflet were not disputed by John Lewis plc - they did not dispute the existence of the shoot, or the fact that it is used to entertain staff. However they seeked to end the campaign against them by using the draconian British libel laws.
Within a couple of weeks London Greenpeace had published a new leaflet highlighting the threats ('No More McLibels') and it was distributed to grassroots groups around the UK. The National Anti-Hunt Campaign, The Mclibel Support Campaign, London Greenpeace and McSpotlight issued a joint press release from and the media started to take interest, resulting in a build up of press coverage. Within days of the first major article hitting the streets Niel Hansen was informed by John Lewis plc that they were dropping the case! A second press release was issued claiming a victory for advocates of freespeech - perhaps companies are learning that censorship will not be tolerated after all.
The campaign against John Lewis over it's ownership and use of shooting estates continues.