THIS WEEK IN COURT
26 February - 1st March 1996
Each week McSpotlight will be bringing you a brief report on the latest developments in the McLibel case.
This week the court continued to hear evidence dealing with the environmental and social damage caused by cattle ranching in tropical forest countries. Ray Cesca, the McDonald's Corporation's Director of Global Purchasing and World Trade, continued to be cross-examined by the defendants throughout the week.
The previous week the defendants had made applications for McDonald's to hand over relevant documents about their sources of local beef supplies in the rainforest countries of Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The company continued to refuse to disclose such documents, but under questioning Mr Cesca revealed that he had with him a briefcase containing relevant material! (Some of this was eventually given to the defendants).
US Beef Imports
McDonald's claims it has a policy in the USA of only using 'US beef' or 'Domestic beef'. The defendants will be calling 3 experts who have attacked the inadequacy of the US labelling system for imported beef which re-categorises imported beef as 'domestic' once it has been inspected at the port of entry. Mr Cesca denied this was the practice. The defendants produced a US Department of Agriculture directive confirming their position, and also referred Mr Cesca to a letter from OSI, one of McDonald's 5 suppliers in the US, stating that there seemed to be some 'discrepancy' as to what constituted 'domestic' beef'. Mr Cesca asserted that McDonald's policy ensured control over the supply chain, but was prepared to accept the word of previous witness Robert Beavers, of the McDonald's Corporation Board of Directors, who had admitted that in the early/mid 1980s the company reduced its pattie suppliers from 175 down to 5 because of lack of effective controls and an inability to 'police' their supply chain.
Mr Cesca admitted that McDonald's had never allowed any independant verification or inspection of its beef sources, and had never lobbied the authorities to improve the labelling system. The defendants claimed that, despite the environmental devastation caused, the Corporation benefited from the way cheap, imported Central American beef helped to keep US beef prices down.
One of the sheets handed over from Mr Cesca's briefcase was an official report requested by him about Costa Rica - it identified cattle ranching as the principal cause of deforestation there. Company documents revealed that 20% of beef used in McDonald's stores in Costa Rica was raised in the San Isidro region, an area which Mr Cesca accepted was originally 'wet and rain forest'. The other 80% came from Guanacaste and Peninsula de Nicoya regions, both areas of 'dry forest' deforested, according to McDonald's Costa Rica chief, 'in the '50s and early '60s'. Maps obtained by the defendants showed deforestation continuing up till the 1980s.
The defendants further claimed that cattle ranching in these regions had led to land disputes and displacement of subsistance farming families, many of whom then had no alternative but to move into rainforest regions in other areas of the country, contributing to further deforestation.
The defendants claimed it was well established that Central American beef exports since the 1960s, in particular to the USA for the fast food industry, had caused the massive expansion of the cattle ranching industry and consequent damage to tropical forests. Sergio Quintana, the Sales Director of Co-op Montecillos in the 1980s, McDonald's local beef supplier in Costa Rica, was quoted by the defendants from a filmed interview in 1984 (shown in court): 'We export meat to the US, 70% of the meat goes to food production outlets such as restaurant chains like McDonald's..', and 'We supply McDonald's and Burger King, and Wendys - they buy our meat'. Mr Cesca denied this had ever happened, stating that the Corporation's US 'no imported beef' policy prevented it. However, he had no qualms about doing local business with with Coop Montecillos which he accepted was the largest exporter of beef from Costa Rica to the US in the 1980s.
The General Manager of McDonald's local supplier for their stores in Guatemala (Procasa) was quoted from his Statement admitting that the beef supplied to McDonald's is from regions 'deforested in the 1940s and early 1950s'. Mr Cesca claimed these were tropical forests, but not rainforests. But an internal company letter from McDonald's Guatemala to Mr Cesca recognised that the region was formerly rainforest. And confronted with a map drawn by conservation experts, Mr Cesca conceded that the area was formerly rainforest.
McDonald's Brazilian stores (now numbering approximately 200) are supplied by Braslo Ltd with beef from companies including Bordon, Frimondelli, Mataboi and Goias Carne from cattle raised in regions including Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo. Mr Cesca was questioned about land disputes in some of these states, particularly Mato Grosso do Sul, where indigenous people and peasant farmers have been evicted from their land to make way for cattle ranching. He denied knowledge of any land disputes in these regions but admitted that the company had not looked into this. Displacement of small farmers has been recognised by McDonald's to be a major cause of rainforest destruction as they often have little alternative but to move into the amazon forest regions to seek new land (by cutting down trees). McDonald's at one time were supplied by a meat plant at Cuiaba which is inside the official Amazon region and virtually bordering deforested rainforest areas. Company documents revealed previous dealings with Anglo beef, who also had two plants within the official Amazon region.
Brazilian exports of soya products, including soya meal for animal feed, are controversial due to the environmental damage caused to vegetation and forests there, and the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of subsistance farmers as huge new soya plantations are established. Mr Cesca accepted that Germany in the 1980s was the main importer of Brazilian soya feed, much of which was for cattle consumption. Mr Cesca also accepted that at some times of the year Brazilian soya feed 'swamped' the German feed market. He admitted that McDonald's were the largest users of beef in Germany and that their beef supplies would be 'typical' of the industry as a whole. The company had previously stated that no cattle used for their burgers in Germany had ever used any Brazilian soya feed.
Questioned about the company's claim that its rainforest policy existed since the company first started, Mr Cesca finally admitted that before the written policy (in 1989) there were "just discussions", but he claimed the company had always cared about the environment, asserting "we wouldn't do anything that is detrimental to the environment, period". The defendants asked how it was possible to run a multinational company which produced masses of packaging and relied on extensive cattle ranching, and fleets of lorries to transport goods, etc etc without causing damage to the environment.
Mr Cesca was asked how the section of the rainforest policy 'to use only locally produced and procesed beef in every country where we have restaurants' tied in with their admitted imports of beef for economic and other reasons. He replied "it is very common for companies, including ourselves, to transship things across borders for reasons that are economic driven" or for other reasons, "but the policy still remains the same. The policy, any policies are there as a guideline for you to follow". He denied that the rainforest policy "was not worth the paper that it is written on".
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16th - 23rd Feb
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