|experience:||Journalist for The Observer|
The witness gives details of a series of conversations had with a McDonald representative concerning the use of previously rainforested land to raise cattle for beef production and ultimately supplying McDonald stores. The representative admits that land which was rainforest in the mid-1970s 'could' have been used to rear cattle in the mid-1980s, after the stated claim by McDonalds that they no longer used such beef that originated from ex-rainforest territory.
Worked for the Guardian for seven years.
The Observer - Home Affairs Correspondent for two and a half years
Full cv: Available for this witness
I took notes of my conservations with Ms Bensilum. (There were three.) I am prepared to give evidence and to produce these notes.
Ms Bensilum told me that Montecillos supplies six restaurants in Costa Rica. She said the suppliers were "under instructions not to supply meat from recently deforested land." I asked what was the definition of "recent". She replied "within the last 25 years."
She agreed that in the 1950s, the farms supplying McDonald's Costa Rica through Montecillos had been rainforest. She said: "I think the world would accept that before that time it was rainforest. We have to accept that. All we can do is ensure that [deforestation] doesn't continue on our behalf."
She said: "We only deal with suppliers who deal with farms that have been long established... about 25 years is the definition we put on being recently deforested."
I asked how this related to Montecillos. She said: "The arrangements with that company, the beef with which they supply us, comes from farms which were deforested in the 1950s." She said that Montecillos staff had given undertakings they would not breach the 25 year rule. McDonald's staff would visit Montecillos to ensure they were complying with this stricture. If they didn't, McDonald's would cease trading with them,.
I asked what other tropical countries McDonald's had outlets in. They were Malaysia, Guatemala, Venezuala and Brazil (where there are 50 restaurants). The first conversation ended with my asking when the 25 year policy started, and what had been the policy before.
Eddie Bensilum phoned me back about an hour later, towards the end of the afternoon. She said: "The policy as it stands that our use of beef doesn't destroy rainforests was formulated in 1988. Our policy has always been that our business should not have an impact on rainforests."
She said this general policy started in the 1950s. I asked for more details. She phoned a third time.
She said that the US policy was always to use US beef in US restaurants. But when the first restaurant opened in Costa Rica in 1970, they were buying beef from farms established between 1920 and 1960 - ie only ten years earlier. This was policy until 1988. She said:
|date signed:||December 7th, 1993|
My clear understanding is that until 1988, there was no formulated policy as to the time which must have elapsed since the forest was cleared before beef cattle farmland could be used to produce McDonald's patties. I asked the firm's spokeswoman what the previous state of affairs was and she said that land which had been rainforest 10 years earlier might have been employed before 1988. I was insistent to establish her exact meaning, and asked whether this meant that in Costa Rica, land which was rainforest in the mid-1970s could have been used to grow McDonald's beef in the mid 1980s, and she replied in the affirmative.
|date signed:||July 20,1993|
|status:||Appeared in court|
transcripts of court appearances: