|name:||Patrick Smith (for Veggies Ltd)|
|experience:||Involved with legal disputes with McDonald's|
Veggies Ltd reprinted the Greenpeace (London) 'factsheet', adding an additional page highlighting the conditions in which cattle are slaughtered, and a page of information about the work of Veggies. The factsheet otherwise contained exactly the same information as that published by Greenpeace (London), which is the subject of the current libel action .
In 1987 Veggies received a letter from McDonald' s solicitors demanding that Veggies publish a correction and apology. Following correspondence, Veggies agreed to make minor amendments to the factsheet, in the rainforest section, and to the heading about animals. Since that time Veggies has continued to publish the same factsheet and have received no further communication from McDonalds, or their agents, to indicate that they have any further concern about the factsheet.
Veggies Ltd was formed in 1954, and was registered on 18th October that year under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1955. Initially run entirely by volunteers, the aim of the company were, and remain to provide foods using no animal ingredients, and to inform the public about their health, their relationship with animals and the environment, and the part that diet plays in the distribution of food world-wide.
Since 1985 the co-operative has donated by covenant 100% of its profits to the overseas development charity, Vegfam, `to feed the hungry without exploiting animals'. The first full-time worker was employed in 1988. Since its formation, Veggies Ltd has encouraged groups elsewhere to develop the provision of outside catering services using no animal ingredients whatsoever, and to give financial and other support to groups and individuals working for human and animal rights, on environmental issues, and for peace and co-operation world-wide. s
(not available for this witness)
REGGIE THE VEGGIE
STATEMENT CONCERNING THREATENED LIBEL ACTION AGAINST VEGGIES BY McD.
Since 1985 Veggies have supported, and drawn inspiration from Greenpeace (London), and its wide ranging campaigns for the well-being of people, animals and the planet. As the `business' part of Veggies work promotes soya-based `Veggies Burgers as a healthy, humane and economic alternative to burgers made from cows, it was natural that Veggies should back the Greenpeace (London) information campaign against the multinational burger corporation McDonalds, especially in that it highlights far more issues than simply the cruel and wasteful use of animals for food.
In support of the campaign, Veggies Ltd reprinted the Greenpeace (London) 'factsheet', adding an additional page highlighting the conditions in which cattle are slaughtered, and a page of information about the work of Veggies. The factsheet otherwise contained exactly the same information as that published by Greenpeace (London), which we understand to be the basis of the current libel action by McDonalds Hamburgers Ltd against Greenpeace (London).
On 5th October 1987 Veggies Ltd received a letter from Barlow Lyde and Gibert, solicitors instructed by McDonald' s Corporation of Oakwood Illinois. The letter demanded that Veggies Ltd should publish a correction and apology' specifically with reference to the allegation that McDonalds Restaurants were implicated in the destruction of rainforests.
Whilst seeking advise on the issues raised by the letter, details of the Veggles Ltd position reached the journal `Peace News'. Peace News published an article on 30th October 1986 which pointed out that their letter of 5th October, McDonald's solicitors had only asked for a retraction of the allegations concerning the destruction of tropical rainforests, although the `factsheet' had also criticised the non union working conditions at McDonalds, the ill effects of fast food and the torture and murder of animals.
Following publication of the Peace News article Veggies Ltd received a second letter from McDonald' s solicitors. in which they extended the requested `correction and apology' to include a retraction of the implication that McDonalds were responsible for the torture and murder ot animals. No request was made that criticism of non-union working conditions, ill effects of junk food, or other issues raised in the factsheet should be retracted.
Following an exchange of letters between solicitors Elliot Mather Smith, now acting on behalf of Veggies Ltd, and Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, acting on behalf of McDonalds, an agreement was reached, set out in a letter from Barlow Lyde and Gilbert of 6th May 1988. In the agreed statement Veggies Ltd acknowledged that there was no `specific evidence concerning the connection with McDonalds and the raising of beef on former Rainforests' . We now understand that MoDonalds have changed their position on this issue, admitting that at the time of the alleged libel they had been using beef from ex-rainforest areas, though claiming that the land had been cleared at some time in the past, and not directly by them. Veggies Ltd had therefore been pressed by McDonalds to make a statement that was not true.
Veggies Ltd also agreed to state that `by common usage, the words "murder" and "torture" are not yet used in connection with the killing of animals'. The agreed statement did however accept that by the standards of Veggies Ltd `this is indeed was the case'.
Throughout the period of correspondence between Veggies Ltd and McDonalds (and through their respective solicitors), Veggies Ltd and Greenpeace (London) engaged in a mutual sharing of advice and information concerning the issues raised, and the implications of the `correction and apology' that had been negotiated.
Since 1986 Veggies Ltd has continued to publish the same factsheet, amended only in respect of the issued covered by the `correction and apology', and have offered advice to other groups and individuals on the agreement made, whilst drawing the implication that the issues not addressed in the agreement had not been contested by McDonalds. Since that time Veggies Ltd have received no further communication from McDonalds, or their agents, to indicate that they have any further concern about the information distributed by Veggies Ltd.
Our earlier statement, "Ronald McDonald's vs Reggie the Veggie", made on 21st October 1993, detailed the threat of libel action made by McDonald's Corporation against Veggies Ltd in 1987. The statement explained that Veggies Ltd was forced to make a "correction and apology" accepting that there was "no specific evidence concerning the connection with McDonald's and the raising of beef on former rainforests".
Our statement also explained that we understood McDonald's had subsequently admitted that they had used beef from ex-rainforest areas, and that Veggies Ltd had, in 1988, been pressed by McDonald's to make a statement that was not true.
We were therefore very concerned when one of our researchers, Laura Waters, drew our attention to the attached document "Tropical Rainforests", (reference entrain.pm4/Sept 92), that she had received from McDonald's in January 1994, in which they had repeated the false claim, that they had no connection with the use of ex-rainforest land.
Also attached is an extract from the transcript of a debate broadcast in the Campus Radio station at Loughborough University on 8th December 1993, in which Michael Matthews, McDonald's had "never used rainforest beef anywhere in (McDonald's) stores in Central and South America".
We believe that the 'correction and apology' that Veggies Ltd were forced to make in 1987, and the statment made by Michael Matthews in December 1993, were intended to bring into disrepute the educational work of Veggies Ltd.
We also believe it is to be very dishonest for McDonald's to deceive the public by continuing to circulate false statements concerning their use of ex-rainforest beef.
|date signed:||October 21, 1993|
|status:||Appeared in court|
exhibits:exhibits available here
transcripts of court appearances: