25 Years of McGarbage

Woolwich, SE London

2nd October 1999

On Oct 2nd, McDonald's were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the opening of their first store in the UK, in Woolwich, SE London. To mark this stupendously historical day about 15 protestors, a jazz band, a self-confessed 'mayor', Ronald 'I'm a clown, honest' McDonald, and 2 cheer-leader girl troupes [guess who hired them, as if we needed any further proof of the McExploitation of young kids - the 5-7 yr olds were chanting McDonald's slogans] all turned out for the 'celebrations' for over 3 hours in front of the store. Joining in the spirit of the occasion, and celebrating 25 years of growing opposition to McWorld, activists held up '25 yrs of McJunk', and 'McDonald's Guilty - Exploiting Workers, Destroying The Environment, Murdering Animals' banners, slap bang in the middle of the proceedings. They also handed out 4000 leaflets to enthusiastic passers-by.

This was:

  • a protest against 25 years of McGarbage: junk food and junk jobs, exploitation of kids, false advertising, McLitter and animal cruelty

  • a celebration of 25 years of increasing McOpposition, and of growing public concern for healthy eating, the environment, workers' rights, animal welfare and for a world without multinational corporations

Only 6 months ago the UK Appeal Court ruled it was true to say that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease" and that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions". This came on top of the damning rulings made by Mr Justice Bell in 1997 at the end of the McLibel trial that McDonald's marketing has "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat & salt etc) did not match"; that McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy; are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty"; and "pay low wages, helping to depress wages in the catering trade."

This year, the global campaign against McDonald's has continued to grow - the 15th annual Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day is approaching on Saturday October 16th. 3 million leaflets have been handed out in the UK alone since 1990 (when the McDonald's Corporation served libel writs aiming to suppress the London Greenpeace leafleting campaign). The famous leaflets will be handed out at Woolwich.

In addition there have been 75 million hits to the 'McSpotlight' website since its launch in 1996, many determined residents' campaigns against new stores [including the permanent residents' occupation, for currently over 310 days, of the site of the proposed new store in Hinchley Wood, Surrey], mass anti-McDonald's protests by french farmers opposing economic globalisation, a crew unionisation success in a store in Canada (for the first time in the North American continent) and general bad publicity for the Corporation as a result of the McLibel case - the aftermath of which continues in the courts (see below).

"We think that 25 years is a quarter of a century too long. Despite all the company's hype and propaganda, its no secret that most people are heartily sick of McFood, McJobs, McAds and McLitter. Roll on the day when our lives, communities and environment are no longer dominated by profit-seeking corporations."


Writs were served on the McLibel defendants on 20th September 1990. The McLibel trial began on 28th June 1994. After a 314-day trial - the longest in English history - in which the defendants had been denied Legal Aid and their right to a jury trial, the verdict was finally given by Mr Justice Bell on June 19th 1997. McDonald's did not appeal against any of the damning findings made against them. The McLibel Appeal began on 12th January 1999 and lasted 23 days in court, ending on 26th February. The Appeal verdict was handed down on 31st March 1999.

The McLibel aftermath continues to haunt the Corporation. The Defendants have now lodged a petition to the House of Lords (decision expected in Oct/Nov), and after that will go to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary to seek to overturn the UK's oppressive libel laws. An injunction is currently being prepared against the Independent Television Commission to ban McDonald's advertising to children.

Further details of the case and the campaign, from 'McSpotlight'. Also available: 'McLibel: Burger Culture On Trial' (Pan Books, Macmillian press, £5.99)

Debating RoomGot something to say about opposition and resistance to McDonald's?
The Campaigns section of the Debating Room is for you.