DESTRUCTION OF RAINFORESTS' SECTION COMMENCES
Dynamite testimony on McDonald's connections with rainforest destruction
The section of the McLibel Trial on the connections between McDonald's and rainforest destruction (particularly in Central and South America) begins on 22nd February, with the testimony of Ray Cesca (Director of Global Purchasing of the McDonald's Corporation).
McDonald's has been enmeshed in controversy over its global promotion of beef consumption - (it spends $1½ billion annually on advertising and promotions, and is the world's largest user of beef) - despite the huge damage that cattle ranching has inflicted on tropical forests. The Corporation has already had to recognise such damage (McDonald's letter 26 July 1982) but has tried to fob off its critics with claims that around the world they have never used any "meat from cattle raised in former rainforests" (as stated in public announcements and official private letters, in the hands of the Defendants, dated from 22 Feb 1983 to Sept 1992).
At the start of the McLibel Trial, Richard Rampton QC (for McDonald's) claimed that no beef had ever been exported to McDonald's anywhere in the world from "rainforest countries".
THESE ARE BLATANT UNTRUTHS AND WILL BE PROVEN TO BE SO.
The Defendants will be seeking Mr Cesca's 'explanation' for the following:
(1) CENTRAL AMERICAN BEEF IMPORTS TO McDONALD'S IN THE USA
The Marketing Director of Coop Montecillos (McDonald's sole hamburger process plant for their Costa Rican stores) stated in a filmed interview in 1982: "We export meat to the US, 70% of the meat goes to food production outlets such as restaurant chains like McDonald's..." Q."Which fast food chains do you supply?" A."We supply McDonald's and Burger King." (From film 'Jungleburger', shown in court).
(2) EX-RAINFOREST LAND USED IN COSTA RICA
Richard Rampton QC (for McDonald's) admitted on the first day of the McLibel Trial: "In Costa Rica, when the first McDonald's restaurant was opened in 1970, some of the land on which the beef was raised had been rainforest up to the 1960's..", ie. destroyed less than 10 years before. (From official court transcript).
(3) ROW WITH PRINCE PHILIP, AND EXPORTS OF BRAZILIAN BEEF FOR McDONALD'S IN UK, SWITZERLAND & ARGENTINA
McDonald's UK secretly imported 5 consignments of Brazilian beef in 1983/4, as admitted by the company's witnesses during the trial. This followed a blazing row in 1983 between George Cohon (McDonald's Canadian President) and Prince Philip (President of the World Wildlife Fund) over Brazilian beef. (As described in the witness box by David Walker, Chairman of McKeys, McDonald's supply plant).
Brazilian beef has also been exported for McDonald's use in Switzerland and Argentina in the 1990's (admitted by Dr Gomez Gonzales, McDonald's International Meat Purchasing Manager, in the witness box).
(4) ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE CAUSED BY BRAZILIAN BEEF
McDonald's Brazilian stores have been supplied with beef from regions where ranches have damaged the environment and caused the eviction of peasant farmers. Displacement of small farmers is recognised by McDonald's to be a major cause of rainforest destruction as they have little alternative but to move into the Amazon region to seek new land (by cutting the trees). McDonald's has been supplied by a meat packing plant at Cuiaba* (inside the official Amazon region and virtually bordering rainforest areas of Rondonia, a region devastated by cattle ranching). (*Admitted in the statement of the Managing Director of the Braslo process plant, McDonald's sole supplier of burgers in Brazil since 1982).
(5) McDONALD'S GUATEMALA BEEF FROM FORMER TROPICAL FOREST
The General Manager of McDonald's hamburger supplier in Guatemala (Procasa) has admitted that they use beef from regions "deforested in the 1940's and early 1950's". (Statement 7 June 1993).
(6) BRAZILIAN SOYA FEED FED TO EC CATTLE, DESPITE TROPICAL FOREST LINK
Brazilian exports of soya for cattle feed are controversial due to destruction of tropical forests for soya production. McDonald's have accepted that Germany in the 1980's was the main importer of Brazilian soya feed, most of which went to feed cattle in Bavaria - the source of McDonald's German beef supplies. (Statement of McDonald's witness). German beef has also been regularly supplied for McDonald's UK use (as accepted by David Walker of McKeys).
Defence witnesses will include:
- Charles Secrett, Director of Friends of the Earth, who participated in meetings in 1985 between FoE and McDonald's regarding rainforest destruction.
- David Rose, a journalist for the Observer who interviewed a McDonald's PR representative in 1993 concerning Costa Rican rainforest destruction.
- George Monbiot, an expert on Brazilian Amazon deforestation.
- Jean Carriere, an expert on Costa Rica.
- Douglas Shane, an expert from the USA on how the US beef labelling system allows imported beef to be relabelled 'domestic beef' and then sold on to others including fast food chains.
- Ronnie Cummins, an expert from the USA on Guatemala and Costa Rica.
- Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher of 20 years experience, from Montana (USA). He will give evidence on the methods and effects of cattle ranching in the USA.
The court is open to press and public, most days from 10.30am, at Court 35, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2 - ring the McLibel office for details.
Notes To Editors
(1) 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 (41) - who between them have an annual income of less than £7,000. McDonald's are suing Steel & Morris for libel over a factsheet produced by London Greenpeace, entitled "What's Wrong With McDonald's", which McDonald's allege they distributed in 1989/90.
(2) The Trial began on 28th June 1994 and became the longest civil case in British history in December 1995. A total of approximately 180 UK and international witnesses are giving evidence in court about the effects of the company's operations on the environment, on human health, 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, and four infiltrators employed by McDonald's. The Trial is set to run until Summer 1996.
(3) Steel & Morris were denied their right to a jury trial and, with no right to Legal Aid, are forced to conduct their own defence against McDonald's team of top libel lawyers.
(4) After McDonald's issued leaflets nationwide calling their critics liars, the Defendants Helen Steel and Dave Morris took out a counterclaim for libel against McDonald's which is running concurrently with McDonald's libel action.
(5) At the time of the first anniversary of the Trial (June 1995), it was widely reported that McDonald's had initiated secret settlement negotiations with Steel & Morris. They twice flew members of their US Board of Directors to London to meet with the Defendants to seek ways of ending the case. McDonald's are clearly very worried about the way the case is going for them and the bad publicity they are receiving.
(6) Over 1.5 million "What's Wrong With McDonald's" leaflets have been handed out to the public in the UK alone since the action was started and thousands of people have pledged to continue circulating the leaflets whatever the verdict. It's clear that McDonald's aim of suppressing the leaflet has totally backfired.
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