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McLibel Support Campaign - for circulation
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 08/03/02
McLibel Defendant on Speaking Tour in N. America, March 8th to 19th.
McLibel Defendant Dave Morris has been invited over to North America for a number of events and talks from March 8th to 19th. We publish, below, a Statement from him about the trip. This is his planned Schedule:
Friday 8th March CHICAGO
Info on Chicago events: Mike - 312-682-2821 voice/pager.
*7pm: Video & Potluck At the A-Zone [2129 N. Milwaukee, Cgo]
Saturday 9th March CHICAGO
Monday 11th March WINNIPEG
*12:30 pm, speaking event at university of winnipeg, room 1L06 organized by the uwsa. *6pm: Mondragon bookstore and coffeehouse - 91 albert street - will be hosting an anti-mcdonalds dinner, followed by *7.30pm: Speaking event
Thursday 14th March HOUSTON
*Noon - Lecture 'The McLibel Case: Beating The Fat Cats In The Courtroom.' Also: Martin Levy on US Libel Laws. At Thurgood Marshall School of Law: Room 105, Texas Southern University (Corner of Wheeler and Sampson)
Friday 15th March HOUSTON
Saturday 16th March HOUSTON
Sunday 17th March WINNIPEG
STATEMENT BY McLIBEL DEFENDANT DAVE MORRIS REGARDING HIS TRIP TO NORTH AMERICA
I am very pleased to have been invited over to Canada and the USA for talks in Chicago, Winnipeg and Houston. This will be my third such trip since the beginning of the 'McLibel' case, and a chance to re-acquaint myself with some of the people, and the issues affecting the life of the people, in North America. My relations with North America go back to 1973 when I spent 6 interesting months living and working in New York.
This trip comes at the end of a year described by McDonald's Chief Executive Jack Greenberg as "the most challenging year" in the company's history [Reuters, Jan 18th] after seeing his profits fall. Despite its strenuous efforts, McDonald's is widely despised, and its 'reputation' - along with that of the food industry in general - continues to sink ever further.
As well as the mass distribution of leaflets by thousands of local activists around the world, the global campaign against McDonald's has continued to grow over the last couple of years:
And there's been continuing bad publicity for the Corporation as a result of the McLibel case, the longest in english history - including the damning legal rulings against the company and the collapse of McDonald's censorship attempts. We are currently awaiting an interim decision on our case against the British Government at the European Court of Human Rights over its oppressive and unfair UK libel laws.
Helen Steel and I are the 2 defendants from the recent UK ‘McLibel’ case brought by the McDonald’s Corporation, which resulted in the longest trial (314 days), and one of the most important and controversial, in English history.
Helen is a 36-yr old ex-barworker, now trainee electrician. I am a 47 year old former postal worker, and now a single parent of a 12 year old boy. Helen and I have both been community activists in Haringey, North London, since the early 1980s.
We were sued for libel by the McDonald’s Corporation in 1990 over the distribution by London Greenpeace of leaflets criticising McDonald’s, the food industry and multinationals in general for promoting unhealthy food, damaging the environment, monopolising resources, exploiting workers, targeting and exploiting children and causing animal suffering.
None of these views were new, having already been widely publicly expressed by trades unionists, environmentalists and nutritionists etc for years. These are vitally important concerns central to our everyday lives and urgently requiring the greatest possible open public debate. Transnational Corporations are now the most powerful institutions on our planet, dominating our lives and the environment. McDonald’s alone currently turn over $40 billion-a-year, and spend over $2 billion annually advertising and promoting themselves and their view of these issues world-wide. In our view it is an outrage that any such bodies should be able to try to suppress the public’s right to express and consider alternative points of view.
I think anyone that questions what is really happening in today's world realises that something is seriously and fundamentally wrong with the top-down way things are organised, and that we all have a responsibility to try to do our best to make a better future for ourselves and future generations.
Food is a basic essential, yet ordinary people have virtually no control over its production and distribution. The food industry is dominated by multinational companies who for their own profits exploit consumers, workers, the world's natural resources and billions of farmed animals. The way we eat, and even the way we think about food is being manipulated by these powerful institutions and their sophisticated marketing campaigns.
Huge corporations not only dominate our High Streets, but also continually bombard everyone with advertising - McDonald's and the junk food industry is particularly guilty for targeting our vulnerable children, brow-beating them to develop life-long unhealthy eating habits.
On the one hand it seems that people have no choice but to go along with all this. But on the other hand millions of parents are sick of their kids being targetted, and are fed up with eating low-quality food. Young workers needing money get jobs in fast-food stores only to walk out in disgust a few months later. I believe if people felt there was a realistic alternative to the current economic and political system based on protits and power they would enthusiastically go for it.
Despite facing oppressive and unfair laws stacked in favour of rich claimants, we decided we had no alternative but to fight to defend the public's right to speak out on matters of such importance. The McLibel Support Campaign was set up to support us and to ensure leafletting and protests grew in the UK and worldwide. We were determined to be seen as fighters rather than passive 'victims', and people rallied round to help out in all kinds of practical ways.
We were refused Legal Aid so had to defend ourselves. It was a nightmare and we had to learn quickly on our feet. McDonald's convinced the judge to scrap our right to a jury trial, and predicted it would last only ‘3-4 weeks’. They called all their big guns - presidents, departmental heads, experts etc - into the witness box. But frankly their slick PR quickly unravelled under questioning, they had to make damaging admissions on all the issues. When compared with the truth their company-speak was soon seen for the idiotic propaganda that it is. Over 80 witnesses volunteered to testify for the defence, including from Canada, the US and Europe. The case had turned into a tribunal, maybe the first of its kind anywhere, in which 'McWorld' and capitalism in general was on trial. Within 2 months they were flying over 2 members of their Board of Directors to meet with us in secret seeking a settlement of the case!
Despite the personal stress of fighting the case, the successes we were having gave us enormous confidence, and we were determined to continue.
In the end the court made some damning findings against McDonald's core business practices, ruling that: their marketing has "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat & salt etc) did not match"; McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy; are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty"; and "pay low wages, helping to depress wages in the catering trade"; and "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease." We were triumphant!
However the court refused to take any official sanctions against the Corporation (for example to halt the exploitation of hundreds of millions of young children). It also ruled that we had still libelled McDonald's over some points and outrageously ordered us to pay £40,000 damages to the $35 billion-dollar company! We naturally refused to pay a penny, and are currently taking the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights to try to scrap oppressive and unfair libel laws.
McDonald's had brought the case to try to suppress the distribution of London Greenpeace leaflets, and criticism generally. But as a result of the organised fightback by the McLibel Support Campaign and grass roots campaigners in many countries, leaflets originally handed out in thousands are now distributed in millions worldwide. McDonald's has become a symbol of everything that's wrong with modern capitalism.
The media largely trivialised or sidelined the case, focussing on the 'human story' rather than the real issues. So a special website, McSpotlight, was set up which received 85 million hits in the first 4 years, and which guarantees that all information, news and views about the company are now easily accessable.
The slick PR of politicians and corporations is constantly repeated in the media. But this propaganda is so far from the reality of their craving for money and power that it is just crying out for alternative points of view. Ultimately, I believe that the simple truth is what counts - McDonald's may currently have wealth and influence, but like the fabled emperor of old has no clothes on at all.
People often wonder just how me and Helen managed to have the strength to battle away and achieve what we did. Both of us, and also London Greenpeace, had the long experience of involvement in a wide range of inspiring campaigns, struggles and movements of ordinary people against the odds - the movements opposing nuclear power and other environmentally destructive industrial projects; supporting workers' strikes and struggles; anti-capitalist campaigns against financial institutions and corporations; struggles for basic rights to organise, demonstrate and for the right to criticise the rich and powerful; and a whole range of activities in which ordinary people at the grass roots are finding alternative, co-operative ways to try to create a better kind of society. When people take part in such activities they learn a lot and gain confidence in themselves - and how to stand up for what they believe in.
Now the McLibel battle is drawing to a close, I am able to concentrate on activities in my local community again - eg in my residents association (organising street parties, campaigns for traffic calming, for decent housing conditions etc), and also in a local anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist collective.
I am working for an end to the exploitation of people, animals and the environment in order to create a new, anarchist society without governments and corporations, where people all over the world have real control over their own lives and communities.
Dave Morris March 2002
[Much of the above is taken from an article co-written by Helen Steel:
'McWorld On Trial'. More information about the case and campaign on