Day five of Closing Speech for the defence

25th Oct 96 - Day 287 of the Trial

The fifth day of the Defendants' closing speeches dealt with the issues of Brazilian soya and soya feed, and Guatemala. However Mr Morris began the day where Day 286 had finished, finalising points concerning Costa Rica and McDonald's witnesses on this issue.

Refering to Mr Cesca's evidence (see yesterday's report), Mr Morris characterised it as a 'deliberate avoidance of the fact' of what was really happening. Mr Cesca's evidence, as the Head of Global Purchasing for the Corporation, was however important as he had made substantial admissions and also for the fact that, in discrediting Mr Cesca's lack of expertise, it was McDonald's that were discredited.

Mr Cesca had agreed with Mr Oakley (Senior Vice-President of McDonald's UK) that whereas the beef for their burgers had been sourced globally they were said to be produced locally. This, said the witness, did not breach any McDonald's policy on beef sources and rainforests - as the policy actually only relates to the finished product! This was not only misleading to the public but was also evasive.

Moving on to the substance of the evidence of McDonald's International Manager of Meat Products, Dr.Gonzalez's (see Report of the previous day), Mr Morris claimed that he had been a very contradictory witness and it was clear he was not an expert in any relevant issue in the case. While giving the impression that McDonald's could control their supplies, he had also said:

"We have no control over what animals go into the slaughterhouse, we cannot go and ask every farmer in the world that can potentially supply McDonald's"

Mr Morris stated that Mr Cesca was clearly unaware (or highly economical with the truth) of what was really happening on the ground in Brazil, Guatemala and Costa Rica, admitting he was relying entirely upon information provided to him by others. Mr Cesca, questioned about the admission on camera by the Marketing Director of Co-op Montecillos that they were sending beef to the USA for McDonald's use, claimed there was no record of this. Yet Mr Cesca and Dr Gonzales both they had not examined any of the company's Export Department documentation! They relied entirely on a handful of letters from their local management, which Mr Morris claimed were ambiguous and deliberately evasive in order to avoid telling the truth.

Mr Morris criticised McDonald's Executives who:

"are quite happy to give evidence under oath on a global case as this one is, without having checked any records of any relvance to the subject."

About half of Costa Rica's beef production, the court had heard, was exported out of Costa Rica to the US, and would in turn be reclassified as US domestic beef. The inter-relationship between McDonald's suppliers and the export market was, according to Mr Morris, proven to be close and overlapping. McDonalds' claims that they used only domestic beef in the US were clearly unsupportable in the light of the fact that beef exported to the US was assimilated into the US domestic produce.

Yet Dr Gonzales had testified that McDonald's relied on any consignment labelled 'US Beef' to be 100% domestic produce. McDonald's locally and in the USA, Mr Morris said, HAD been supplied from deforested areas of Costa Rica, and HAD misled the public into believing that this was not the case.


Moving onto Guatemala, Mr Morris began by refering to Mr Cesca's special Guatemala map indicating the regions supplying the company's beef. On the map Mr Morris had highlighted in blue what defence expert Dr Cotter of the USA had identified as the areas of 'nearctic tropical rainforest' in Guatemala deforested between 1940 and 1982, as well as surviving rainforest. The areas overlapped substantially with McDonald's supply regions. Additional to this, Mr Morris pointed out that the Dr Cotter map only included the main blocks of rainforest (which was likely to have extended much further) and also missed out other forest types which were also likely have been deforested.

The judge intimated that he accepted this. Expert witnesses for the defence had said that the Cotter map had been the minimum definition acceptable and if anything it was too limited in its area of definition.

Through McDonald's own admission, cattle slaughtered to supply McDonald's in Guatemala came from ranches in southern and eastern Guatemala, an area which the map clearly showed had been extensively deforested since 1940. Refering to the statement of Plaintiffs' witness Ronald Robles (of Procasa, McDonald's supplier for their local stores there) McDonald's had been using the ex-rainforest regions for their beef since Procasa had started supplying them in 1979. Mr Morris said this was beyond doubt, the only question was when the land had been deforested. Mr Cesca, Mr Morris said, clearly was either unaware or unwilling to face the facts as they clearly were embarrasing to the Corporation.

Defence Expert witness Dr Jim Nations (of Conservation International) had been told by a representative of IGG (McDonald's local supplier in Guatemala in the mid/late '70s) that they were supplying beef for McDonald's use in the USA. Dr Nations had written a letter to Mr Cesca in 1994 saying that it had been later indicated to him 'that McDonald's US beef supplies..are, in fact, sourced from retired US dairy cattle'. Yet this 'fact' (which, Morris said, could only have come from McDonald's themselves) was untrue and was contradicted by the evidence of Dr Gonzales who had testified that only about half of McDonald's US beef were dairy cattle, the other half being steers and heifers. Mr Morris left open ended the query as to why McDonald's would have given incorrect information. It was a matter of speculation and interpretation, he said.

It was again raised by Mr Morris that it was common sense that people tell those 'above them in the hierarchy' what they wanted to know in order to keep them happy.

Dr Nations' general evidence for the defence was damning of the effects of the hamburger industry on Central America's rainforests. Mr Morris quoted Mr Justice Bell's own questioning of Mr Cesca: 'that it boils down to this, unless you have some positive evidence to the contrary you would not be minded to challenge something which comes from Dr Nations', to which Mr Cesca had agreed, noting he was a 'class A researcher'.

Turning these points into a critique on the causation of problems in Central America, Mr Morris also used the evidence given by defence expert Ronald Cummins. Based on 5 years sustained travel and research in Central America during 1983 - 1993, Mr Cummins had criticised McDonald's role in the Costa Rica, Guatemala and the global beef industry and the effect this has on the extreme environmental, social and economic problems.

Mr Morris explained that Mr Cesca, the architect of the Corporation's so-called 'rainforest policy' in 1989 had defined it to only refer to a strictly limited eco-system, thereby ensuring that McDonald's claimed 'policy' left absolutely no protection (even if enforced - which it has been shown is not the case) for 90% of tropical forests. It is therefore mere propaganda, he said, published so that the public can then be convinced of McDonald's credentials whilst McDonald's maintain an exploitative and destructive relationship with tropical forest regions.

Finishing off this section, Mr Morris stated that though he was arguing for positive, fundamental alternatives to the hamburger industry, any intermediary improvements could be at least an advancement.


Moving onto soya, Mr Morris cited McDonald's stated policy of not buying beef from soya or soya fed cattle (read from a company document). This, Mr Morris said, can be held to be an admission that soya and soya feed is a major contributory factor to environmental degradation. The same arguments therefore apply as in beef production itself - that McDonald's was responsible (as the world's largest promotor and user of beef) for the enormous damage Brazilian soya production for export as animal feed has caused to tropical forests.

From Mr Cesca's evidence the use of soya feed as a feed was necessary in any country where there is a dry and wet season. This definition would include Europe - and in Germany (where a substantial proportion of Brazil's exported soya feed was destined - for cattle). Using statistics supplied by McDonald's, Mr Cesca had had to agree that at some times of the year in the 1980s Brazilian feed in Germany had 'swamped the market'. German cattle are also regularly exported to the UK for McDonalds' use.

Incredulously, both Mr Cesca and also Mr Oakley (Senior Vice-President of McDonald's UK, in charge of purchasing for N. Europe) stated in their evidence that they had never even heard of this 'policy'. Mr Cesca had agreed that soya feed is used in the UK, Denmark and Germany for cattle. Therefore, Mr Morris argued, this can be seen as another policy put out as propaganda by McDonald's for the purposes of countering public opinion, concern and scrutiny on an important issue relevant to forest destruction. Not only does McDonald's not carry out its own policy, its executives do not even KNOW about some of these policies.

The court had heard that since 1965 the soya growing area of Brazil has increased twenty-fold (causing deforestation) to 9 million hectares - this represents some 80% of Brazil's total agricultural land base. In southern Brazil 88% of soya produce is grown on land which had previously been labour intensive - this means that hundreds of thousands of local and small farmers had been dispossesed as soya plantations took hold. Many of these, now landless, have had no alternative but to move into rainforest areas to clear land for themselves.

The chain of causation from dispossesion of Brazilian farmers to vast soya producing ranches or farms, for export to Europe and the use in Germany of beef fed with Brazillian soya feed, was established Mr Morris said. Mr Cesca had agreed that McDonald's beef in Germany was 'typical'.

An expert witness for the plaintiff, Dr Schumm, who had worked as a consultant for the sole suppliers of McDonald's German beef, had provided a statement containing the highly detailed statistics on which the defence had proven the 'soya connection'.

Irrespective of all this Mr Morris felt that McDonald's had made admission even before the trial began. On 21st April 1994, Mr Rampton had said that McDonald's witness Douglas Gullang had traced back the whole of what might be called the soya chain from 'McDonald's cows' to Brazil. IT IS THE DEFENDANTS' CASE THAT MUCH OF THE ISSUES IN THE CASE HAVE NEVER BEEN DISPUTABLE AND THAT THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO GO FORWARD TO TRIAL ... and that would explain why the trial has been taking so long.

Expanding the issue into other animals which are given soya feed, Mr Morris said that McDonald's Brazilan supplier had admitted that chickens there consume soya feed and in a general global sense, hundreds of millions of cattle, chickens and pigs are likely to be fed soya, and McDonald's participation and propagation of this system is unanswerable.

Monday sees the commencement of the summation of the evidence about the inevitable cruelty involved in the rearing and slaughter of animals for McDonald's use - to be presented by Ms Steel.

Note:Due to the unavailability of the official court transcripts at this time, this report has not been checked for accuracy against the transcripts but was complied from extensive notes taken during the day by volunteers.
See also: The report for the previous day
The report for the following day
and, for summaries of all the key evidence given during the trial;
Trial News 1, Trial News 2, and Trial News 3