Joint Press Release 5th June 97 from
The National Anti-Hunt Campaign, McLibel Support Campaign,
London Greenpeace and McSpotlight

John Lewis drop law suit rather than face another McLibel


Advocates for free speech are currently celebrating victory as John Lewis plc has dropped its libel action against Niel Hansen of the National Anti-Hunt Campaign (see previous press release).

John Lewis plc had served libel writs on Niel Hansen of the National Anti-Hunt Campaign on May 1st over a leaflet entitled 'John Lewis Wildlife Killers' in which it was reported that John Lewis Partners own shooting estates at which staff shoot birds for fun.

The company's unexpected withdrawal came after the McLibel Support Campaign (along with McSpotlight and London Greenpeace) pledged their support for Niel Hansen and the story hit the national media. The 'U' turn clearly demonstrates that John Lewis knew they had no basis for claiming they had been libelled but were simply trying to intimidate Niel Hansen into dropping the campaign against them.

It is reasonable to assume that John Lewis plc decided to drop the case rather than face the embarrassment that McDonald's attempts to silence criticism had provoked. The McLibel trial received world wide media attention and spawned the McSpotlight Internet site, a book, and two TV documentaries. Over two million leaflets have been distributed in the UK alone since the writs were served and an International Victory Day of Action is planned for the first Saturday after the verdict (which is expected in two weeks time).

On hearing about the John Lewis libel writ; London Greenpeace produced a leaflet about the situation (titled 'No More McLibels'); McSpotlight placed the allegedly libelous leaflet along with the Writ and Statement of Claim on the Internet and the McLibel Support Campaign and the McLibel Defendants gave advice and assistance to Mr Hansen regarding legal procedure and preparing his Defence which was served on John Lewis plc shortly before Mr Hansen was notified that the case had been dropped.

Niel Hansen intends to pursue costs against John Lewis. Additionally he is seeking legal advice on the possibility of suing John Lewis plc for libel over their statement that the claims in the leaflet are lies.

"Since the legal threats were issued, campaigners across the country have continued to distribute the 'John Lewis Wildlife Killers' leaflet and the campaign will continue until John Lewis Partners end the pointless slaughter of animals for fun."
- Niel Hansen (National Anti-Hunt Campaign)

"It is hoped that this case will demonstrate to other companies that attempts to censor criticism will not be tolerated and that grassroots activists will unite to fight against attacks on free speech."
- Charles O'Leary (McSpotlight)

"What has happened in this case, together with McLibel, marks a seachange in the balance of power between large companies and campaigners in libel cases. Large companies must now realise that they cannot ride roughshod over individuals' right to free speech and to leaflet about issues of public importance. Corporate muscle has met its match in the determination of campaigners with truth on their side (although with little, if any, money). It seems that, in this country at least, SLAPPs* have had their day."
- Dan Mills (McLibel Support Campaign)

* Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation


Tel. 0378 307575
The National Anti-Hunt Campaign was founded in 1992. It organised Britains largest ever marches against bloodsports and has collected over 1.3 million signatures for a ban of hunting - the biggest petition on animal welfare issues ever collected.

Tel/Fax 0171 713 1269
5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX
The McLibel Support Campaign was set up to generate solidarity and backing for the McLibel Defendants, to raise the funds needed to fight the case and to publicise the issues in the trial.

Tel. 0171 837 7557
5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.
London Greenpeace is the original Greenpeace group in the UK and has campaigned on environmental and social justice issues since the early 1970's. It is run as an open collective and is independent of Greenpeace International.
Launched in Feb 1996, this Internet site is dedicated to exposing the truth about corporations, such as McDonald's, which dominate our lives. It is accessed over 1 million times each month and contains over 21,000 files (including the full transcripts from the McLibel trial). The John Lewis Writ, Statement of Claim and aforementioned leaflets are also available.

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