13th - 17th May 1996

Each week McSpotlight will be bringing you a brief report on the latest developments in the McLibel case.

This week there were new revelations about:

The Defendants finished cross examination of Paul Preston, President of McDonald's UK.

Sid Nicholson, McDonald's UK Vice President, formerly in charge of Personnel and Security (and the Plaintiffs' main representative in Court each day), testified for the second time in the trial (see Trial News evidence about employment conditions). Mr Nicholson joined McDonald's in 1983 as Head of Security. Prior to this he had spent 31 years in the police force, firstly in South Africa, and then in the Metropolitan Police, reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent.

London Greenpeace infiltrated

Mr Nicholson was questioned in detail about the steps taken by the company against London Greenpeace and other critics. He admitted that, in 1989 when considering legal action against the small environmental collective, McDonald's had hired 2 private investigation agencies (Kings Investigation Bureau and Bishops) to infiltrate the group. He admitted that at least 7 'enquiry agents' were engaged during the period from October 1989 to January 1991 to participate in meetings and events of the group. (N.B. This included distribution of the London Greenpeace factsheet, the subject of the libel action. The defendants have argued that this amounts to McDonald's 'consent' to the publication, which would undermine the company's case against the defendants.)

Mr Nicholson further accepted that the company's agents had stolen letters sent to the group from the UK and around the world, and that approximately four of the spies remained in the group after writs were served on the defendants in order to monitor the response.

Company-police unlawful collaboration

Mr Nicholson admitted that in September 1989 he had a secret meeting at McDonald's Head Office with two members of Special Branch where he obtained information about people involved with London Greenpeace. The next month, during a London Greenpeace picket of McDonald's HQ on October 16th (World Day of action against McDonald's), two Special Branch agents were in attendance, one of whom stood with Mr Nicholson passing on information about protestors. Company documents revealed that McDonald's continued to recieve information from Special Branch until at least 1994.

Mr Nicholson stated that all McDonald's security department were ex-policemen, and had a great many contacts in the police from whom they may get information about protestors. He also admitted that the company had subscribed to the Economic League which he described as an organisation which existed "to defend multinationals and the interests of multinationals". McDonald's had recieved information from the Economic League about London Greenpeace and the Transnational Information Centre, who published 'Working for the Big Mac', and that "we may very well have got reports on union activity". (The Economic League kept a 'blacklist' of 'subversives' - political or trade union activists - gleaned from various sources, which subscribers could use to vet prospective employees. It was the subject of great controversy in the late 80's/early 90's and has since closed down.)

McDonald's agent defects to the defence

McDonald's have refused to identify more than the four agents they intend to call as witnesses next month. However, during the week the defendants served the statement of Frances Tiller, one of the other agents, who had been in contact with them and agreed to be a witness for the defence!

Recently cleared Amazonian rainforest currently used by McDonald's in Brazil

Sue Brandford, a Brazil specialist and expert regarding the social and economic forces impacting upon the Amazon region, testified for the defendants. She criticised the cattle ranching industry for causing environmental damage, and for causing the violent displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples. In particular she had visited regions which McDonald's have admitted as the past or current sources of beef supplies for their 200 Brazilian stores. For example, she described areas of Mato Grosso (Sinop, Nova Xavantina and Pontes e Lacerda), which had supplied McDonald's in the past (1979 - 1982), as areas she had seen being deforested for cattle ranches in the early 1980s.

Further, she had visited areas in Goias where McDonald's have admitted only very recently (in a statement from Roberto Morganti, the Director of McDonald's local hamburger manufacturers, Braslo Ltd) that they STILL obtain their beef - especially along the River Araguaia and its tributaries. She had travelled extensively in this region (including towns named by Mr Morganti such as Jucara, Aruana, Britania, S. Miguel do Araguaia, Porangatu, Novo Mundo and Crixas etc) and testified that in the early 1970s it was an area of Amazonian tropical rainforest. Ms Brandford had witnessed it being cleared and burned for cattle ranching from the mid-1970s up to the mid-1980s (with indigenous people being forced out). She said forest clearances continue, but at a slower pace.

This evidence, based on McDonald's own information which the defendants finally forced the company to disclose after 3 years of legal applications, completely nails once and for all the corporation's lies distributed to the public worldwide about never using any beef raised on ex-rainforest or recently-cleared ex-rainforest land.

Last Week in Court

Further details of past weeks in court will be available soon...

15th - 19th April

2nd - 8th March

24th February - 1st March

16th - 23rd February

11th - 16th February

Other This Weeks

This Week's Campaigning

This Week in the Media

This Week at McDonald's