The 'McLibel' Trial
The McLibel Trial is a mammoth legal battle between the $26 billion a year
McDonald's Corporation and two supporters of London Greenpeace - Helen Steel
(30) and Dave Morris (42) - who between them have an annual income of less
than 7,000 pounds*.
McDonald's is suing Steel & Morris for libel over a six- page
Factsheet produced by London Greenpeace, entitled "What's Wrong With
McDonald's? - Everything They Don't Want You To Know", which McDonald's
allege they distributed in 1989/90.
The Trial began on 28th June 1994 and became the longest libel trial in
British history in March 1995, then the longest civil case in British
history in December 1995
and finally the longest trial of any kind in British history
on 1st November 1996. A total of approximately 180 witnesses from the UK
and abroad are giving evidence in court about the effects of the company's
operations on human health, on the environment, on millions of farmed
animals, on the Third World, and on McDonald's' own staff. They include
environmental and nutritional experts, trade unionists, animal welfare
experts, McDonald's employees, top executives (from the UK & USA), and four
private detectives hired by McDonald's. The Trial is set to run until the
end of 1996.
* Dave Morris is an ex-postman and single parent with a 7 year old son;
Helen Steel is a former gardener and works part-time in a bar.
The areas covered in the factsheet, which have become the issues in dispute
at the trial, are:
* Multinationals and Global Trade - The connection between multinational
companies like McDonald's, cash crops and starvation in the third
* Environment - The responsibility of corporations such as McDonald's for
damage to the environment, including destruction of rainforests.
* Recycling and Waste - The wasteful and harmful effects of the mountains
of packaging used by McDonald's and other companies.
- McDonald's promotion and sale of food with a low fibre,
high fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content, and the links
between a diet of this type and the major degenerative diseases in
western society, including heart disease and cancer.
* Advertising and Promotions
- McDonald's exploitation of children by its
use of advertisements and gimmicks to sell unhealthy products.
* Animal Welfare - The barbaric way that animals are reared and
slaughtered to supply products for McDonald's.
* Employment - The lousy conditions that workers in the catering industry
are forced to work under, and the low wages paid by McDonald's.
McDonald's hostility towards trade unions.
For several years now, McDonald's tactics in the face of this criticism have
been to step up their own propaganda efforts to project a green and caring
image, and at the same time to use libel laws to bully and intimidate their
critics into silence. Among the company's critics who, in the past, have
been forced to apologise or back down are
the BBC, The Guardian,
The Independent, the Bournemouth Advertiser, the Scottish TUC, MSF union,
the Transnationals Information Centre, the Vegetarian Society, playwrights,
and even Prince Philip.