THIS WEEK IN COURT

16th - 23rd February 1996

Each week McSpotlight will be bringing you a brief report on the latest developments in the McLibel case.

Start of Rainforest section

  • This week saw the beginning of the section dealing with the environmental and social damage caused by cattle ranching in tropical forest countries.

    The defendants served two new expert witness statements, from Fiona Watson of Survival International, and from the agronomist Professor Susanna Hecht. These dealt with the effects of cattle ranching on rainforest countries - both in damaging the environment and in causing the displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples.


    Discovery

  • The defendants also made an application that McDonald's should 'fulfil their legal obligations' by providing relevant documentation on this issue. This included material on the sources of their local beef supplies in the rainforest countries of Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

    This application was resisted strenuously by Richard Rampton QC, representing McDonald's, and the judge is presently deliberating on the dispute.


    Important New Witness

  • On Thursday 22 February Ray Cesca, McDonald's Corporation's Director of Global Purchasing and World Trade, began his testimony. His appearance in the witness box is scheduled to last 7 days. He was questioned (evidence in chief) by Richard Rampton QC for most of Thursday, and then the defendants began their cross examination.

    During his evidence Mr Cesca said he had seen lists of the ranches that supplied beef for McDonald's in Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatamala. The defendants then asked for copies of these lists. Mr Rampton objected, he complained that as McDonald's had provided statements from company witnesses that none of the beef was from areas of recently deforested rainforest, he didn't think that McDonald's should have to go to the trouble and expense of providing copies of the lists. The defendants said that the lists were evidence in their own right and that they would pay for the phone calls, faxing and copying charges if that was a problem for McDonald's.

    Helen Steel pointed out that McDonald's should have complied with their obligation to give discovery of such documents three years ago, stating "if they have got nothing to hide, they could have disclosed all these documents..... when the order for discovery was first made... I do not think McDonald's should get away with not making discovery now just because they have spun it out for so long and denied that there were any documents in existence, when clearly there were".

    During the course of arguments about these lists it was suggested that the defendants could contact Mr Morganti, the managing director of Braslo Ltd - McDonald's sole hamburger supplier in Brazil. When Mr Morganti was contacted during the evening he denied having the lists, and said he had given them to McDonald's lawyers.

    Mr Cesca gave evidence that he had drafted McDonald's rainforest policy statement along with Shelby Yastrow, General Counsel for McDonald's Corporation (the most senior lawyer employed by the company). He said the policy had taken 4-6 weeks to write in 1989, although he claimed it had existed 'verbally' since the company opened its first store in 1955. He said that "'recently deforested rainforest' means since we decided to open a restaurant in a specific country" and agreed with Mr Rampton that "in theory, some rainforest might be cut down a year or six months before [McDonald's] made that decision, cattle put on it, and [McDonald's] could, in theory, take cattle from that land". (N.B. Previously the company has defined 'recently deforested' as "a significant number of years", "within 10 years"(prior to 1989) and "within 25 years" (since 1989).

    Giving evidence about Costa Rica, Mr Cesca said "McDonalds opened the first of its restaurants in Costa Rica in December 1970" and that they had been supplied with meat by Co-ope Montecillos since that time. "This meat comes from ranches in areas which were deforested in the 1950's and early 1960's".

    Under cross examination, Mr Cesca revealed that Braslo, McDonald's beef supplier in Brazil, was in fact a joint venture between Mr Morganti and two huge meat supply multinationals based in Germany and the US - Fleischwaren and OSI respectively (who together are known as Lutz & Otto, or L & O). They in turn, according to Mr Cesca, controlled a Brazilian beef export company called Glenmark. Mr Morganti is managing director of both Braslo and Glenmark.

    The defendants have expressed an interest in obtaining any further information about these companies.

    Mr Cesca said that Braslo supplies only McDonald's, but he confirmed that in addition to McDonald's in Brazil, Brazlo had exported beef to McDonald's in Argentina, Uruguay and Switzerland.


    More transcript controversy

  • During his evidence in chief (questions from Mr Rampton) Mr Cesca brought up a great deal of new and important evidence. The defendants, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, said that they should have had proper notice of such material, and therefore requested McDonald's allow them to immediately buy a copy of the transcript of the day's testimony, at the lower rate, to assist in their defence preparations, including cross examination the next day.

    The official transcript of each day, which is produced by a private company at McDonald's request, is available to the defendants at a cheaper rate of 25 after a three week delay - to give a 'legal advantage' to McDonald's.

    However, Mr Rampton demanded that the defendants give an undertaking not to disclose any of the contents of the transcript to the press. Dave Morris replied "I will give an undertaking that I will use anything that is said in open court to tell anybody anywhere in the world who is interested to find out what is happening in this public court".

    The defendants were left with no alternative but to buy the vital transcript at its full price - 375 plus tax.

    Controversy over the transcripts last year had led to an unsuccessful application to the Court of Appeal by the defendants. The McLibel Support Campaign has launched a public appeal to help the defendants pay for their legal costs.



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  • 11 - 16th Feb