20th June, 1996
Other attached reports:
Recent McLibel Trial Evidence
Notes to Editors
5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK.
Tel/Fax +44-(0)171 713 1269
McLIBEL TRIAL REACHES ITS SECOND BIRTHDAY
The McLibel Trial, between the $26 billion a year McDonald's Corporation and
two supporters of London Greenpeace (Helen Steel & Dave Morris), began on
28th June 1994 and is now set to run to the end of 1996. It is already the
longest civil case in British history: there have been 266 days in court so
far. The previous longest libel trial lasted 101 days, and the previous
longest civil case 198 days.
on Friday 28th June 1996
The main reason that the case is taking so long is because McDonald's is
alleging that every criticism in the Factsheet is libellous. Those
criticisms are common sense views on matters of great public interest.
Defending such views makes the case very wide-ranging and has resulted in
180 witnesses being called. Often, McDonald's is forcing Steel & Morris to
prove the obvious - for example, that much of its packaging ends up as
litter, that diet is linked to ill-health, and that McDonald's pays low
wages to its workers.
There will be a picket outside the High Court on 28th June this year
(between 9.30am & 11.30am) to mark the second anniversary of the Trial. The
McLibel Two will be present and will make a personal statement outside the
McSPIES TESTIFYING ON INFILTRATION OF LONDON GREENPEACE
The court is currently hearing evidence on 'Publication', in which
McDonald's are trying to prove their assertion that Steel & Morris published
and distributed the London Greenpeace Factsheet "What's Wrong With
McDonald's?". Four of the seven private investigators employed by
McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace (Oct '89 to May '91) have
recently given evidence, and have admitted distributing the Factsheet which
is the subject of the libel action! The Defendants have formally submitted
that McDonald's thereby consented to its publication.
Another of the 'enquiry agents' who "felt very uncomfortable" infiltrating
London Greenpeace and who "did not think there was anything wrong with what
the group was doing" will be testifying for the Defence on Friday 28th June,
the second anniversary.
It has also been admitted recently during the cross-examination of Sid
Nicholson (McDonald's UK Vice-President) that in addition to information
obtained from enquiry agents, McDonald's received information on
anti-McDonald's protestors from Special Branch (a division of the police)
and the Economic League (a shadowy organisation which kept 'blacklists' of
political and trade union activists).
See attached reports of some of the recent evidence in the case on
McDonald's connections with rainforest destruction, on the infiltration of
London Greenpeace, and on McDonald's use of Special Branch and the Economic
The court is open to members of the press and public, most days from 10.30am
in Court 35, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2. Ring 0171 713
1269 for details - or look at the Come To Court page.
McDONALD'S US EXECUTIVES IN THE FIRING LINE AT SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING
Criticisms were aired at the Shareholders' Meeting of the McDonald's
Corporation in Chicago on 23rd May 1996. Mike Quinlan (Chairman and Chief
Executive) was harangued on whether it is in shareholders' best interests to
continue pursuing the humiliating and disasterous McLibel law suit. He was
"How much money has the Corporation spent on the trial? Mr Quinlan said a
year ago that it was "coming to a wrap soon" but it's now the longest civil
case in British history and is still continuing at an estimated cost of
$10,000 per day. Is it true that the Corporation is so worried about the
way the case is going and the bad publicity the company is receiving that on
two occasions members of the US Board of Directors have flown to London to
meet the McLibel Two in a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement* to the
Mr Quinlan refused to answer the question!
* See note (5) below.
- (1) The McLibel Trial is a mammoth legal battle between the $26 billion a
year McDonald's Corporation and two supporters of London Greenpeace. Helen
Steel (bar worker, 30) and Dave Morris (single parent and ex-postman, 42)
between them have an annual income of less than 7,000 pounds. McDonald's
are suing Steel & Morris for alleged libel over a factsheet produced by
London Greenpeace, entitled "What's Wrong With McDonald's", which McDonald's
allege they distributed in 1989/90.
- (2) The Trial began on 28th June 1994 and became the longest civil case in
British history in December 1995. A total of approximately 180 witnesses
from the UK and around the world are giving evidence in court about the
effects of the company's operations on the environment, on human health, on
millions of farmed animals, on the Third World, and on McDonald's' own
staff. They include environmental and nutritional experts, trade unionists,
animal welfare experts, McDonald's employees, top executives, and four
infiltrators employed by McDonald's. The Trial is set to run until the end
- (3) Steel & Morris were denied their right to a jury trial and, with no
right to Legal Aid, are forced to conduct their own defence against
McDonald's team of top libel lawyers. The denial of a jury caused Marcel
Berlins, a leading legal commentator, to remark "I cannot think of a case in
which the legal cards have been so spectacularly stacked against one party".
- (4) After McDonald's issued leaflets nationwide calling their critics
liars, the Defendants took out a counterclaim for libel against McDonald's
which is running concurrently with McDonald's libel action.
- (5) At the time of the first anniversary of the Trial (June 1995), it was
widely reported that McDonald's had initiated secret settlement negotiations
with Steel & Morris. They twice flew members of their US Board of Directors
to London to meet with the Defendants to seek ways of ending the case.
McDonald's are clearly very worried about the way the case is going for them
and the bad publicity they are receiving.
- (6) The case is receiving publicity worldwide. The columnist Auberon Waugh
described the trial as "the best free entertainment in London". A
confidential internal memo from McDonald's in Australia (leaked to and
broadcast widely by the media last year) revealed the Corporation's dilemma
around the world with media coverage of the trial: "Contain it as a UK
issue". "We could worsen the controversy by adding our opinion". "We want
to keep it at arms length - not become guilty by association". "This will
not be a positive story for McDonald's Australia". The aim is to "minimise
any further negative publicity".
- (7) It's clear that McDonald's aim of suppressing the "What's Wrong With
McDonald's" leaflet has totally backfired. Over 1=BD million leaflets have
been handed out to the public in the UK alone since the action was started
and thousands of people have pledged to continue circulating the leaflets
whatever the verdict. Protests and campaigns against McDonald's continue in
over 24 countries. And now there is an internet site called 'McSpotlight',
an on-line library and campaigning tool, which makes available across the
globe 1,800 separate files containing everything that McDonald's don't want
the public to know (http://www.mcspotlight.org/). McSpotlight was accessed
over a million times in its first month.