Fast food chains and the beef industry in general have been burying their heads in the sand for years regarding BSE, continuing to promote and profit from beef consumption whilst rubbishing those who were pointing out the risks. Now, overtaken by events and faced with a consumer boycott, they have been forced to abandon their irresponsible complacency.
McDonalds' full page adverts in the press claim the company is taking 'a lead' by ending its use of UK beef, at the same time insisting, against current expert opinion, that 'British beef is safe'. This contradictory message is unacceptable.
In June 1994, in the first week of the 'McLibel' trial, we challenged McDonald's UK President, Paul Preston, in the witness box over the BSE threat. It seems that at no time before or since has the company implemented any BSE checks on its UK beef supply sources. None of the 40 checks on beef mentioned by the company in court related to BSE. In our opinion, the company's desire for profits has been put ahead of its much-trumpeted 'concern' for customers' health.
Its this profits-before-people mentality which is the cause of so many modern dietary problems and is inevitably the focus of a wide range of criticism. The well-documented disregard of BSE whistleblowers (one of whom, Marja Hovi, was a vet sacked from a slaughterhouse which supplied beef for McDonalds burgers, and who testified for us at our trial) has now been exposed as a scandal - likewise, attempts to use libel laws to suppress criticism of the food industry will also fail. We call for the widest possible public scrutiny and debate about modern food production systems and about diet in general, and we believe that society should choose healthy, organic alternatives.
Dave Morris and Helen Steel
The McLibel Defendants,
c/o London Greenpeace, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1