witness statement




name: James Erlichman
section: Animals
for: The Defence
experience: Journalist


summary:

The witness confirms the accuracy of his article which covers livestock rearing and food provision:

McFact: "Only prime cuts of lean forequarter and flank are used for McDonald's 100 per cent pure beef hamburgers."

Well, yes...sort of. The truth, reluctantly conceded by a McDonald's spokeswoman, is that some of their burger beef comes from "spent" dairy cows - older animals which are killed because they are past their birthing and milking best.

And lean? Absolutely! Those who have been to a dairy farm will know just how lean old Daisy is after years of calving and making milk.

McFact: "McDonald's will not accept beef originated from cattle subjected to growth promoters or hormone treatment."

Many phone calls and faxes to McDonald's London HQ finally elicited an admission that growth-promoting antibiotics are fed to young cattle.


cv:

Consumer Affairs Correspondent, The Guardian.

Full cv:(not available for this witness)


full statement:

I am happy to confirm the accuracy of my article ("The McFact Factor" - Guardian 31 July 1993) - including all methods of livestock rearing and food provision mentioned. The article was based on McDonald's own printed material and confirmed by interviews with representatives of the company in the UK.

The company has not subsequently objected to me in any way about its accuracy.


Peel the Layers of Jargon off the Burger Masters' Publicity, says James Erlichman, and the Truth isn't Quite so Clear

In the same week that McDonald's finally won its eight-year battle to build an outlet in posh old Hampstead, the massive burger chain completed a neat double by publishing the McDonald's Fact Book, a glossy brochure demonstrating just how nice McDonald's is to people, animals and the entire planet - in most corners of which there is, of course, an outlet of McDonald's.

The first McDonald's opened in 1955 on the outskirts of Chicago and there are now more than 13,000 worldwiwde. Every day in Britain alone more than 1 million people eat in a McDonald's.

That's quite a success story. So while we're about it, lets nail once and for all the lie that beef for its burgers is grased on razed rainforest. Nope, every ounce used in the 400-plus UK outlets comes from cattle raised in Britain, France or Ireland. And every animal is slaughtered in EC- approved abattoirs - a hygiene measure exceeding legal requirements.

But not every fact in the McDonald's book is quite what it seems. Take chicken. Last year, UK customers chomped their way through 22 million worth of McChicken sandwiches and chicken McNuggets.

McFact: "Chickens used for McDonald's products are not reared in cages. They have the freedom to move around at will."

Sorry, Mac, there's nothing special about that. Chickens reared to be eaten are not kept in cages. The caged ones are battery hens, which lay eggs.

McFact: "Chickens are reared on deep litter, in environmentally-controlled houses which minimise distress to the birds. Temperature and ventilation are constantly monitored, as is the supply of food and drink."

Described thus, a McChicken may appear to live a life of uncommon luxury. But dissect this dressed up public relations jargon, and you discover that the described conditions deviate not one jot from the intensive methods of rearing deplored by animal welfare groups.

Thousands of McChicks are put into large sheds when just a few days old. They will never again see natural daylight. At first they have plenty to eat and drink because the name of the game is to get them up to table weight as fast as possible. Typically, they are ready for the cull in under 50 days after hatching.

McFact: "Maltreatment of birds results in the immediate termination of the contract with the farmer."

No doubt it does. But perfectly conventional treatment of intensively-reared chickens means that their final days are spent cramped together becasue they grown into all the available space. The stocking density laid down by McDonald's is relatively generous by the standards of the industry, but still allows just over a square foot for each bird.

Intensively- raised chickens grow so fast that many cannot support their own weight. In one study, more than half developed bone defects at six weeks of age, according to research published last year for the Agricultural and Food Research Council. The worst affected died of starvation and dehydration.

McFact: "Only prime cuts of lean forequarter and flank are used for McDonald's 100 per cent pure beef hamburgers."

Well, yes...sort of. The truth, reluctantly conceded by a McDonald's spokeswoman, is that some of their burger beef comes from "spent" dairy cows - older animals which are killed becasue they are past their birthing and milking best. And according to the Ministry of Agriculture, the word "prime" has no precise meaning in food law. Nothing wrong with eating old dairy cows, as such. you could even say that every old mum you eat spares a younger animal from the same fate... at least, for a little while. But does the meat really deserve the appellation prime?

And lean? Absolutely! Those who have been to a dairy farm will know just how lean old Daisy is after years of calving and making milk. The McDonald's spokewoman said the dairy mothers used by McDonald's are never more than five years old. Animals reared for beef are normally slaughtered after just two years.

McFact: "McDonald's will not accept beef originated from cattle subjected to growth promoters or hormone treatment."

Hormone treatment of cattle, the best known kind of growth promoter, was banned in the EC in 1986. But there are other, lesser-known, growth promoters, including antimicrobial drugs. The livestock industry discovered in the Sixties that routine low doses of antibiotics added to animal feed could promote faster growth and weight gain in healthy animals. These drugs are perfectly legal when used correctly and their applications widespread in intensive livestock rearing. So why would McDonald's make an absolute claim that they will not accept beef from cattle "subjected to growth promoters"?

Many phone calls and faxes to McDonald's London HQ finally elicited an admission that growth-promoting antibiotics are fed to young cattle, but are not absorbed from the gut to the muscle "..we can claim without doubt that there are no growth promoting antibiotics in meat...used in McDonald's burgers."

No doubt. But "never subjected to" is not the same as no residues left in the meat. The former is redolent of extra gentle, even organic, treatment; the latter is just bog standard for the beef industry.


date signed: 29 November 1993
status: Statement will be read out in court
references: Not applicable/ available

exhibits: Not applicable/ available

transcripts of court appearances:

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