McDonald's spend over $1.8 billion every year worldwide on advertising and
promotions(1), trying to cultivate an image of being a 'caring' and 'green'
company that is also a fun place to eat(2). Children are lured in (dragging
their parents behind them) with the promise of toys and other gimmicks(3).
But behind the smiling face of Ronald McDonald lies the reality - McDonald's
only interest is money, making profits from whoever and whatever they
can(4), just like all multinational companies. McDonald's Annual Reports
talk of 'Global Domination'(5) - they aim to open more and more stores
across the globe - but their continual worldwide expansion means more
uniformity, less choice and the undermining of local communities(6).
PROMOTING UNHEALTHY FOOD
McDonald's promote their food as 'nutritious'(7), but the reality is that it
is junk food(8)- high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in fibre and
vitamins(9). A diet of this type is linked with a greater risk of heart
disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases(10). Their food also contains
many chemical additives, some of which may cause ill-health, and
hyperactivity in children(11). Don't forget too that meat is the cause of
the majority of food poisoning incidents(12). In 1991 McDonald's were
responsible for an outbreak of food poisoning in the UK, in which people
suffered serious kidney failure(13). With modern intensive farming methods,
other diseases - linked to chemical residues or unnatural practices - have
become a danger to people too (such as BSE)(14).
Workers in the fast food industry are paid low wages(15). McDonald's do not
pay overtime rates even when employees work very long hours(16). Pressure
to keep profits high and wage costs low(17) results in understaffing(18), so
staff have to work harder and faster. As a consequence, accidents
(particularly burns) are common(19). The majority of employees are people
who have few job options(20) and so are forced to accept this exploitation,
and they're compelled to 'smile' too!(21) Not surprisingly staff turnover
at McDonald's is high(22), making it virtually impossible to unionise and
fight for a better deal, which suits McDonald's who have always been opposed
ROBBING THE POOR
Vast areas of land in poor countries are used for cash crops or for cattle
ranching, or to grow grain to feed animals to be eaten in the West(24).
This is at the expense of local food needs. McDonald's continually promote
meat products, encouraging people to eat meat more often(25), which wastes
more and more food resources. 7 million tons of grain fed to livestock
produces only 1 million tons of meat and by-products(26). On a plant-based
diet and with land shared fairly, almost every region could be
self-sufficient in food(27).
DAMAGING THE ENVIRONMENT
Forests throughout the world - vital for all life - are being destroyed at
an appalling rate by multinational companies(28). McDonald's have at last
been forced to admit to using beef reared on ex-rainforest land(29),
preventing its regeneration. Also, the use of farmland by multinationals
and their suppliers forces local people to move on to other areas and cut
down further trees(30).
McDonald's are the world's largest user of beef(31). Methane emitted by
cattle reared for the beef industry is a major contributor to the 'global
warming' crisis(32). Modern intensive agriculture is based on the heavy use
of chemicals which are damaging to the environment(33).
Every year McDonald's use thousands of tons of unnecessary packaging(34),
most of which ends up littering our streets(35) or polluting the land buried
in landfill sites(36).
The menus of the burger chains are based on the torture and murder of
millions of animals(37). Most are intensively farmed, with no access to
fresh air and sunshine, and no freedom of movement(38). Their deaths are
barbaric - 'humane slaughter' is a myth(39). We have the choice to eat meat
or not, but the billions of animals massacred for food each year have no
choice at all(40).
CENSORSHIP and McLIBEL
Criticism of McDonald's has come from a huge number of people and
organisations over a wide range of issues(41). In the mid-1980's, London
Greenpeace drew together many of those strands of criticism and called for
an annual World Day of Action against McDonald's. This takes place every
year on 16th October, with pickets and demonstrations all over the world(42).
McDonald's, who spend a fortune every year on advertising, are trying to
silence world-wide criticism by threatening legal action against those who
speak out(43). Many have been forced to back down because they lacked the
money to fight a case(44). But Helen Steel and Dave Morris, two supporters
of London Greenpeace, defended themselves in a major UK High Court libel
trial. No legal aid is available so they represented themselves.
McDonald's engaged in a huge cover up, refusing to disclose masses of
relevant documents(45). Also, the defendants were denied their right to a
jury. Despite all the cards being stacked against them(46), Helen and Dave
turned the tables and exposed the truth by putting McDonald's business
practices on trial(47). Protests against the $30 billion(48) a year
fast-food giant continue to grow(49). It's vital to stand up to
intimidation and to defend free speech.
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REFERENCES Note - Most references are given just by way of example (out of
many more if we had room!). All evidence referred to is from the official
transcripts of the McLibel Trial, giving the day number of the trial
followed by the page/s (and line) [D/P-P (or D/P/L)] that the reference
starts from. Many witnesses quoted are from McDonald's side, not because we
consider their evidence to be better than evidence for the Defence, but
because it makes it harder for McDonald's to deny the obvious. The
transcripts can be viewed on the McSpotlight website
(http://www.mcspotlight.org/). The Defence closing speech provides many
more references see days 283-303. Summaries of evidence available from MSC.
Where McDonald's UK leaflets are given as a reference, equivalent leaflets
are usually available in many of the countries McD operates in (esp. USA).
'Comments' are statements which are matters of opinion (political
viewpoints), but which are based on the facts as stated in the leaflet.
1. McDonald's Corporation Annual Report 1995 page 9.
2. Adverts & McD UK 'Fast Fact' leaflets - available in store.
3. McD Adverts, Happy Meals, toys, Ronald McDonald etc; McDonald's
Corporation Operations Manual 1990-91 pp 653, 654, 659, 660 [44/37-41].
4. Comment - (McD executive agrees is purpose of Corp to make profits [4/80/7]).
5. McDonald's Corporation Annual Report 1995 page 7.
6. Comment - eg. protests from residents, local family cafes put out of
7. McD UK leaflet "Nutrition - a Question of Balance"; Evidence McD US
8. Comment - not objected to by McDonald's [16/69/3].
9. Evidence McD Nutrition Consultant [21/29-31], UK President [5/22/7]. For
nutrient content see Nutritional Analysis figs, McD nutrition leaflets
(various worldwide). The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that
for a healthy diet a max of 15-30% of a person's calorie intake should come
from fat (preferably "towards 15%"), WHO Report "Diet, Nutrition, and the
Prevention of Chronic Diseases" 1990, p108. (There are 9 calories per gram
10. WHO Report 1990. p157; McD UK 1985 pamphlet "Good Food, Nutrition &
McDonald's" p12; Evidence McD Nutrition Consultant, [14/75/ 8, 21/49/14].
11. McD UK "Our food. The inside story" lists 52 additives used. Some of
these are considered to provoke hyperactivity in children (leaflet,
Hyperactive Childrens Support Group). Others may cause ill-health:
"Additives: A Guide for Everyone" by Eric Millstone; "E for Additives" by
12. Evidence of Defence expert [106/4/18].
13. Public Health Laboratory Services Report on E Coli Infection Dec 1990 to
Feb 1991. Also McD admission of responsibility [101/8] [246/46].
14. "The Food We Eat" by Joanna Blythman; Evidence McD UK chicken supplier
re use antibiotics etc [90/42-43,91/36-37]; evidence McD meat purchaser re
residues [92/22]; evidence Defence expert [244/16-24].
15. McD's basic rate is currently 3.25 pounds p.h.for over 18 year olds. In
1994 the Council of Europe set a 'decency threshold' for pay then as a
minimum of 5.88 pounds per hour. (Govt. New Earnings Survey 1994
[180/13/33]). McD workers' basic hourly rates were in the lowest quartile
(25%) of basic hourly rates of retail and catering employees [1992 Company
document - "External Survey of Retail and Catering Hourly Rates"].
16. Evidence McD UK Vice President [117/10/41, 118/9/39]. Also D310/18.
(Note: except in countries where they are required by law to pay it.)
17. Evidence McD UK Vice-President [118/57/17].
18. Evidence McD current & ex-employees; [197/49/47, 209/36-37, 212/41/38,
213/18, 215/8 & 15, 268/29/ 60]. See also McD Operation Manual p481 [125/19].
19. "The Management of Occupational Health & Safety in McDonald's
Restaurants Ltd", report by Accident Prevention Advisory Unit of the UK
Health & Safety Executive, 1992, makes numerous recommendations and condemns
McD 'hustle' policy as putting customer service ahead of employee safety.
20. 68% of hourly paid employees are under 21 - McDonald's UK Fact File
1996. Evidence McD US executive - over 37% of US crew from ethnic
21. Evidence McD UK & US Executives [6/30/19-27, 125/24/15].
22. McD annualised turnover in US since 1990 (up to 177%) and UK
(106-197%)[118/9]. Opinion of Judge, McD's QC agrees [310/21/32].
23. "Behind the Arches" p397, by John Love with co-operation of McD
[4/69-70]; Evidence McD UK Vice President [120/5/27].
24. Brazilian soya exported for cattle feed [239/11/13]; McD Snr
Vice-President [225/11-12 & 17]; Misc text books, eg. 'Beyond Beef' by
Jeremy Rifkin, p148,163.
25. Self evident fact - McD spends $1.8 bn on advertising each year to
persuade people to eat their products (almost all meat based) more frequently.
26. Vegetarian Society; misc text books eg. 'Beyond Beef' by Jeremy Rifkin
27. 'Atlas of the Environment' WWF 1990 p25; 'Beyond Beef' p163.
28. World Wildlife Fund report - 'Forests In Trouble' by Nigel Dudley
29. Opening speech for McD re Costa Rica, [1/50/8]. Evidence Defence expert
- McD's identified current beef supply sources in Brazil include areas of
recently cleared ex-rainforest land [251/18-23].
30. Evidence Defence expert [239/11/19].
31. "Interesting facts about McDonald's", McD UK 1984; evidence McD
32. McDonald's Corporation "Let's Get Growing America" pamphlet [287/22].
33. Evidence US ex-cattle rancher [233/8/ 54]; misc standard texts eg.
'Silent Spring' by Rachel Carson; 'Atlas of the Environment' WWF 1990 pp
105-108; 'Beyond Beef'.
34. Each store produces an average of 140 pounds of in-store waste packaging
a day [9/24/25], equivalent, worldwide, to approx 500,000 tonnes of waste
every year - excluding takeaway packaging (around 50% of custom).
35. See for yourself! Evidence McD UK President [6/53/13].
36. In the UK, all McD's waste ends up as litter or in landfill sites,
evidence McD UK Snr Vice President, [61/33/47].
37. Opinion; McD's acceptance of this, [1/44/ 24, 30/2/45]. (Note: McD
later tried to backtrack on their acceptance of 'torture' as opinion,
however many people do hold this view and are entitled to express it.) See
Defence closing speech days 288-291 for refs to general rearing conditions.
38. In the UK, all McD chickens and virtually all pigs are reared indoors in
intensive farms in conditions as described; battery chickens [108/9/12,
288/8/25]; chickens [1/10/27]; pigs [290/32-33]. In the USA & Australia,
many cattle are fattened in feedlots which severely restrict their freedom
of movement [233/8-13].
39. Evidence US ex-cattle rancher [233/14-15]; RSPCA "The Slaughter of Food
40. Self evident fact.
41. Environmentalists, trades unionists, nutritionists, parents, media,
animal rights activists, residents groups, just about everybody really! McD
US executive aware of previous criticism [123/9-12].
42. McLibel Support Campaign Jan 1995 Round Up listed protests in 26
countries during 1994, many around the October 16th annual World Day of
Action against McDonald's.
43. McD in the UK alone have sent writs or threats of writs in order obtain
'apologies', to the BBC and Channel 4, The Guardian and other local and
national press, Scottish TUC and other labour movement, environmental &
animal rights groups, a children's theatre group, book publishers. (See
McSpotlight 'Issues' section under 'Freedom of Speech/Libel Laws').
44. Eg. Harriet Lamb researcher for "Working for Big Mac" [230/4/20 &
21/21]; Juliet Gellatley, Vegetarian Society [49/28/22]; also [272/44/44].
45. Defendants legal submissions [2/3/14, 313/22-24].
46. Legal commentator, Marcel Berlins: "I cannot think of a case in which
the legal cards have been so spectacularly stacked against one party." (The
48. McDonald's Corporation Annual Report 1995 - turnover $30 billion.
49. Over two million of these leaflets have been distributed in the UK alone
since 1990, and thousands of people have pledged to continue to hand them
out. The leaflet has been translated into over 2 dozen languages.