The Big Issue (Scotland); 13th February 1997

David confident of win in epic battle against burger Goliath

by David Milne

DAVID Morris could be facing a bill of over 10 million for libelling the fast-food giant McDonald's - but he doesn't care.

The single father, now awaiting the outcome of Britain's longest running defamation case, has told the Big Issue in Scotland: "It doesn't matter what the verdict is because we've already won."
Morris, one of two environmentalists sued by the giant burger chain, damned the state of McDonald's food and criticised its environmental policy in a pamphlet which claimed the company promoted unhealthy eating.
But Morris claims the verdict of the trial, expected around May, is irrelevant because he and co-defendant Helen Steel stood up against the corporate giant and highlighted environmental outrage at the company's activities.
The 'McLibel' trial lasted a record 314 days and is estimated to have cost at least 10 million.
Morris says he's "exhausted but exhilarated" after the bitter fight: "McDonald's had every conceivable advantage that money could buy, but I believe we had truth on our side. Our criticisms have been vindicated by the evidence," he said.
Morris and Steel, who have no legal background, were forced to conduct their own defence after they were denied legal aid.
They appeared in court in jeans and jumpers, a stark contrast to the wigs and robes of the McDonald's legal team.
The pair live on social security payments and have a combined income of just 7000 a year. McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant chain, has annual sales of 30 billion.
"I'm a single parent with a young son so it was a very difficult decision to go ahead with this case," Morris told the Big Issue in Scotland.
"But in the end it would have been more difficult to concede and let McDonald's get away with censorship.
"Sometimes you have to take a stand on what you believe in rather than opting for an easy life."
He said the behaviour of the multi-national during the trial had left him 'disgusted'.
It was claimed in court that McDonald's hired private detectives to infiltrate the defendant's support group, London Greenpeace.
"This was despicable behaviour that should disgust any right minded person," he claimed.
Apart from the claims in the pamphlet, Morris also accused McDonald's of operating a business practice damaging to society.
"They are drunk with power and feel they can do anything. I hey believe they can exploit people and the environment in the pursuit of profit," he claimed.
A McDonald's spokesman said the company was confident they would win the case. "The evidence has heen overwhehningly supportive of our case.
"The truth is heard in court and when the verdict comes out, we believe we'll win."


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