'Victory Day Of Action' this Saturday at 500+ McDonald's UK stores, and
Today Mr Justice Bell delivered his verdict in the McLibel Trial (at 314 days in court, the longest trial in English history, and 3 times the length of the previous longest libel trial) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. He read out a summary of his personal judgment (having denied the Defendants their right to a jury trial) lasting approx two hours. The full judgment, around 1,000 pages long, was handed down to McDonald's and Steel & Morris. (Summary and full judgment accessible on the Internet: www.mcspotlight.org).
The Defendants believe that their stance in fighting the case has been vindicated; that evidence (see over) in the trial has backed up all the criticisms made of McDonald's over the promotion of unhealthy food, and exploitation of people, animals and the environment; and that the campaign has become unstoppable.
The Corporation called its big guns into the witness box - US and UK executives, departmental heads and consultants etc. As the trial wore on they were forced under lengthy cross examination to make damaging admissions and concessions on all the issues. In fact, McDonald's basic case on each major issue having collapsed, the only REAL bones of contention by the end of the trial were legal technicalities and arcane arguments over interpretation of the exact meaning of the text and the accompanying satirical banner headlines and cartoons in the 1986 London Greenpeace Factsheet (which was out of print before the writs were served in 1990).
Pre-trial publication by McDonald's of 300,000 leaflets and press releases, attacking criticisms of the Corporation as 'lies', sparked a counterclaim by the Defendants for libel. The company was unable to bring a single piece of evidence to substantiate its defamatory assertion.
The case has been described by the media as the biggest Corporate PR disaster in history and things look like getting worse for McDonald's. This Saturday campaigners are holding an International VICTORY DAY OF ACTION and will be leafleting outside McDonald's stores around the world to demonstrate McDonald's failure to silence its critics. Over 500 of the company's 750 UK stores will be leafleted in a display of solidarity with the McLibel Defendants and show of conviction that all the criticisms in the "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets are true. As the Defendants have been denied a jury trial, the public are in effect the wider jury and campaigners are committed to continuing to provide the public with the facts they need to judge for themselves. (The Corporation, after all, spends $2 billion every year on its global advertising and propaganda.) A week of action is also planned for Oct 11-18th, around Oct 16th UN World Food Day / World Anti-McDonald's Day.
During the verdict, supporters of the McLibel Defendants held a picket outside the court and distributed "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets to passersby. 2 million of these leaflets have already been handed out in the UK since the writs were served on the Defendants. On leaving the court, the Defendants joined in distributing these leaflets.
Please note: On Monday 21st June, the McLibel Campaign plans to issue a Press Release analysing the judge's full judgment, and reporting on Saturday's UK and global protests.
A Press Conference was held by the McLibel Defendants shortly after the judgment was given. The chair, Michael Mansfield QC, believes that McLibel was the 'trial of the century' because of the vital importance of the issues to people's everyday lives. Defence witnesses from the trial were also on the panel, including Charles Secrett (Executive Director of Friends of the Earth), Tim Lobstein (co-director of the Food Commission), Iain Whittle (former McDonald's crew member), and Frances Tiller (former private investigator hired by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace). Also speaking were Maureen & John Hopkins (the parents of Mark Hopkins, who was fatally electrocuted while working at a McDonald's store in Manchester).
Legal controversies are set to continue - Having been denied Legal Aid and a jury trial, and up against complex libel laws stacked in favour of plaintiffs, the Defendants are now preparing to take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the UK's unfair and oppressive libel laws and to continue the fight to defend the public's right to criticise multinational corporations. The Corporation would not have been allowed to bring this case in the USA.
EVIDENCE from McDonald's witnesses' own mouths and from their own documents backing up the statements in the London Greenpeace factsheet.
DIET AND ILL HEALTH - Asked his view of the statement contained in the London Greenpeace factsheet "A diet high in fat, sugar, animal products and salt and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals is linked with cancer of the breast and bowel and heart disease", McDonald's cancer expert replied: "If it is being directed to the public then I would say it is a very reasonable thing to say." (Day 22, p32, line 19). McDonald's expert witness Professor Verner Wheelock admitted that a typical McDonald's meal was high in fat, saturated fat and sodium content (Day 21, pp29-31). Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) admitted that McDonald's products were low in fibre (Day 5, p22, line 7).
UNETHICAL ADVERTISING - The corporation's official and confidential 'Operations Manual' was read out in court: "Ronald loves McDonald's and McDonald's food. And so do children, because they love Ronald. Remember, children exert a phenomenal influence when it comes to restaurant selection. This means you should do everything you can to appeal to children's love for Ronald and McDonald's." (Day 42, p62, line 32)
FOOD POISONING - McDonald's have admitted that they were responsible for an outbreak of E.Coli 0157 food poisoning in the USA in 1982, and in Preston (UK) in 1991, in which people suffered serious kidney failure. (Day 294 p17, Day 125 p10, & Day 66 p20)
ANIMAL SUFFERING - David Walker of McKey Foods (sole hamburger supplier to McDonald's UK) admitted that "as a result of the meat industry, the suffering of animals is inevitable". (Day 78 p63 line 48)
LOW PAY AND HOSTILITY TO TRADE UNIONS - Richard Rampton QC questioning Lynne Meade, McDonald's regional Human Resources Manager for London and the South, asked "The question I have is, given this overall -- one can pick nits but that is not my habit -- it looks as though the basic McDonald's starting rate is below the general averages for that kind of work in the country at large; would you agree with that?". Answer: "Yes" (Day 133, p37). Sid Nicholson, McDonald's UK, Vice President and former Head of Personnel said employees "would not be allowed to carry out any overt union activity on McDonald's premises" (Day 120, p5, line 27).
RAINFORESTS - McDonald's admitted in their opening speech that they had used beef in Costa Rica from cattle reared on former rainforest land (Day 1, p50). The company also admitted importing Brazilian beef into the UK in the 1980's (Day 78, p21). Some of their current declared supplies to their 250 Brazilian stores emanate from areas of Goias State defined by Defence experts as former rainforest areas destroyed to make way for cattle ranches (Day 251, pp18-23).
PACKAGING - Ed Oakley, Vice President of McDonald's UK admitted that the polystyrene packaging collected during a nationally-publicised UK scheme "for recycling into such things as plant pots" was in fact "dumped" (Day 59, p64). He also admitted that in the UK all McDonald's packaging (barring a small pilot scheme) ends up as litter or in landfill sites. (Day 61, page 33, line 47).
LITTER - "When one considers that McDonald's each day is serving food and drink to approximately three-quarters of a million people in the UK, it does not take a genius to conclude that our packaging will be prevalent on the streets whilst littering continues." - McDonald's Local Store Marketing news-sheet May 1990 (Day 6 p53).