Day Six of Closing Speech for the defence

28th Oct 96 - Day 288 of the Trial

The start of the second week of closing speeches for the defence saw the start of a new issue. Mr Morris spent a few minutes on a few final points on the rainforest issue and then Helen Steel started on the 'animals' section of the case.

Justice Bell hinted that he expected the defence would provide a different meaning to the one the plaintiffs were pleading. He suggested that the plaintiffs mean 'utterly indifferent' would be difficult to prove and that a more reasonable one could be argued.

Ms Steel began by saying, "We don't accept that the overall sting of this section of the factsheet is that McDonald's are utterly indifferent to the welfare of the animals which are used to produce their food. There is nothing stated in the factsheet about McDonald's state of mind towards the animals, rather there are just facts set out relating the methods of rearing and slaughter. The sting or defamatory meaning of that section of text as a whole is that animals are suffering and that McDonald's are responsible for it.".

She continued, "As it happens, we do believe McDonald's are utterly indifferent to the welfare of animals, and that there has been ample evidence during the course of this trial to prove that, however we don't think that the evidence heard means that the meaning alleged by the plaintiff should be imputed into the leaflet."

Quoting from the factsheet she read the following; "They sell millions of burgers every day in 35 countries throughout the world." She then provided figures from documents published by McDonald's. These said that in 1984 there had been 8,000 McDonald's stores in 37 countries and McDonald's had sold it's 50 billionth burger, by 1990 (when the writs were served) they had 11,800 stores in 53 countries. The latest figures for the end of 1995 showed that McDonald's had 18,400 stores in 89 countries. Ms Steel added that McDonald's have just opened a store in India, bringing the total up to 90 countries.

"This means the constant slaughter, day by day, of animals born and bred solely to be turned into McDonald's products." said Ms Steel, reading from the factsheet. She then reminded the court of figures produced by McDonald's of the quantities used. A McDonald's document was quoted, "We crack over 3 million fresh Grade A large eggs - every single day", Ms Steel added, "so that's 3 million chickens at least which are being imprisoned in battery cages at any one time in order to supply McDonald's with eggs."

Ms Steel reminded the court that McDonald's itself declares that it is the largest user of beef in the world, and in 1984 it became the world's second largest user of chicken, second only to Kentucky Fried Chicken (McDonald's has since more than doubled in size and may now be the largest user of chicken also). Other figures revealed that McDonald's in the USA alone use 200-250 million pounds of chicken, which equates to probably about 80-100 million chickens a year.

Ms Steel added, "So obviously we are talking about a huge number of animals which are being born and bred solely for McDonald's to turn into their products and make profits from." Reading again from the factsheet, she said, "Some of them - especially chickens and pigs - spend their lives in the entirely artificial conditions of huge factory farms, with no access to air or sunshine and no freedom of movement."

Ms Steel continued, "The Plaintiffs pleaded meaning is incorrect, because leaflet says SOME of them, not ALL." She said that during opening speeches, Mr Rampton had conceded that this statement was true for the chickens reared for McDonald's products. Additionally McDonald's had made a formal admission that it uses eggs supplied by chickens kept in battery cages where the chickens have no freedom of movement, no access to fresh air and sunshine. The reference to freedom of movement, air and sunshine is taken directly from the fact sheet which McDonald's are suing over. Ms Steel continued," might think that seeing as they are admitting it is true, they could have just called a halt to this section of the case rather than waste everybody's time having to go through extensive evidence on the subject. But obviously they know that the more work we have to do on issues which even they admit are true means that we have less time to work on other issues and just makes it generally much more harder for us to fight this case."

Ms Steel proceeded, saying that the evidence had shown that the claim made in the factsheet is in fact true for the pigs as well as chickens. She referred to evidence given by McDonald's pig supplier in the UK who had said that there were two separate buying channels for pigs, indoor and outdoor. He said that McDonald's bought indoor pork which is cheaper and that he wished McDonald's would pay the higher price for 'free range' pork.

Continuing reading from the factsheet, Ms Steel discussed the use of the word 'barbaric' in relation to the slaughter of hundreds of millions of animals every year. She then continued onto the sentence, "in the slaughter house animals often struggle to escape." and spoke of the witnesses who had reported the measures taken to prevent animals from escaping.

On preceding with the factsheet Ms Steel read, "Cattle become frantic as they watch the animal before them in the killing line, being prodded, beaten, electrocuted and knifed.". She read from the testimony of Mr. Howard Lyman (a former cattle rancher). He had said, "..the animals are terrified at slaughter plant and the cruelty inflicted on the animals in their last moments on earth is indescribable." Referring to cattle he said, "The animal behind the one in front of it being stunned sees what is happening, knows exactly what has happened". He said the whole operation is designed to, "..get them in as quickly as possible, kill them as quickly as possible, and the idea of humane slaughter absolutely does not exist."

Back to the fact sheet again Ms Steel read, "A recent British government report criticised inefficient stunning methods which frequently result in animals having their throats cut while still fully conscious." She said that the report referred to was from the governments Farm Animal Welfare Committee in 1984, which reported on conditions throughout the industry in slaughterhouses.

Reading from the factsheet again "McDonald's are responsible for the deaths of countless animals by this supposedly humane method." Ms Steel said that the 'supposedly humane method' referred to was that mentioned in the previous sentence and that, "it follows as night follows day that McDonald's are responsible. If you hire contract killers to kill somebody you are responsible in law and so McDonald's are hiring other people to carry out the rearing and slaughter of animals and they are therefore responsible for the torture and murder of the animals."

Ms Steel moved onto the final part of the factsheets section regarding animals. She read, "We have the choice to eat meat or not. The 450 million animals killed for food in Britain every year have no choice at all. It is often said that after visiting an abattoir, people become nauseous at the thought of eating flesh. How many of us would be prepared to work in a slaughterhouse and kill the animals we eat?" She added that Dr Gregory (a witness for McDonald's) had said that by 1993 the figure had reached 730 million animals killed for food in Britain every year.

Ms Steel had herself given evidence that it was as a result of her own visits to slaughterhouses while studying agricultural science that she decided to become a vegetarian. And Howard Lyman had also made this point.

Having reached the end of the section she said, "Those are basically the facts that are set out in the leaflet. We say that they have been proved by the evidence given in court. And the sting of the words in that section of the leaflet is that animals are suffering and that McDonald's are responsible for it."

Ms Steel reminded that court that Mr. Walker from McKey Ltd (sole supplier of all the beef and pork products to McDonald's UK) had admitted that "as a result of the meat industry, the suffering of animals was inevitable". This she said proved the sting of the factsheet.

Moving on to the phrase 'torture and murder', she said,"..they are obviously matters of opinion or comments which are based on the facts as set out in the leaflet and we consider that this was accepted by the Plaintiffs at the start of the trial." Mr Rampton had said in his opening speech, "McDonald's could not dispute the right of anyone at all, if that should be his honest view, to say in strong terms if he wishes, that he disapproves of keeping and killing animals for human consumption." And then he goes on, "..what McDonald's do object to however, is gross misdescription of the facts underlying the expression of such opinions... ...while McDonald's unreservedly accept that a person holding strong views on the matter might honestly describe the slaughter of animals for food as 'murder' they emphatically do not accept that those persons are entitled to colour their opinion and try and incite support for it by falsely asserting as a matter of fact that the animals which McDonald's use, 'often struggle to escape from the killing-line, become frantic as they watch the animal in front of them being slaughtered; frequently have their throats cut while still fully conscious".

Ms Steel said that it was clear from what Mr Rampton had said, that the Plaintiffs recognised that they have to accept that people are entitled to express their opinions, and that must confine their case solely to the factual allegations that were set out in the factsheet. She continued by saying they considered that all the facts had been proved, and that the sting (whether the meaning asserted by the defence or by the plaintiffs) had also been proved.

Ms Steel said, " our view anyone who locks animals inside for their entire lives with no access to the open air or to sunshine and with no freedom of movement, or anybody who has that done to animals on their behalf, (i.e., McDonald's) is utterly indifferent the welfare of the animals."

She referred to McDonald's claimed animal welfare policy and reminded the court of an article entitled 'Cementing Relations' from 'High Levels 20' (a McDonald's in-house management magazine ) produced in 1994, "..will be looking at areas in which we did not get too involved with in the past - animal welfare, crop production methods, genetic engineering of both plants and animals, and food legislation..". She said that it showed that until recently McDonald's had not considered animal welfare an issue, and that prior to that there was total indifference. She added that it was the defendants belief that McDonald's had only started to consider it an issue because of the amount of pressure that they have been under from the animal rights movement and widespread public criticism. It was also their belief that it was likely to be just another thing that McDonald's would use for propaganda purposes.

Before finishing her submissions on the meaning, Ms Steel added, "I think when you are considering this section of the leaflet and the McDonald's view of it, I think that the incident with Veggies should be taken into consideration - which was that McDonald's complained about just the headings, (the heading "in what way are McDonald's responsible for torture and murder") and they did not complain about all the facts that were stated underneath that heading. And that they were satisfied when Veggies changed the heading to 'slaughter and butchery', rather than 'torture and murder'"

Mr Morris added a few points about McDonald's driving force in the market and the use of the word barbaric . This led to a revealing debate with Justice Bell as to whether is it would reflect badly on McDonald's to say that they had large numbers of animals reared and slaughtered for its profits. Justice Bell said that most people would not think any worse of such a company. Mr Morris finished on McDonald's indifference before the court was adjourned for lunch at 12:50pm

After lunch Mr Morris continued to speak about McDonald's indifference towards the welfare of the animals. He said that, "..the more welfare the animals have, the more damaging that would be to the profit margins" he continued, "Mr. Oakley's recognition that the company does not go beyond what the law stipulates, that is what their welfare policy is all about. The law is what is forced upon McDonald's and they cannot claim any credit for that, because obviously it would be illegal if they did not at least accept those conditions. As we have heard anyway, there are 'ifs' and 'buts' about whether they do accept those conditions - which we certainly would say are completely inadequate protection for the animals."

Ms Steel then took over and began to look in depth at the evidence that had be given regarding the three species specified in the leaflet; chickens, cattle and pigs. Among the evidence was the startling fact that Sun Valley (chicken producers) hatch 800,000 chickens per week! McDonald's accounts for one fifth of their business. They supply them with 27 million chickens in Europe each year. Despite having huge potential influence over the supplier, McDonald's had only ever stipulated that the birds raised should have a 'good meat yield', they never once suggested higher levels of welfare.

Ms Steel continued by relating to the evidence from Mr. Pattison (of Sun Valley Poultry Ltd) that the eggs that do not hatch out are put through a macerator and he agreed that this could include some that were still alive in the eggs and obviously that could be considered cruel. He also said that Sun Valley kills 200 to 300 unwanted chicks each day by gassing them with carbon dioxide.

She concluded, "We would say that that entire process is indicative of the mentality of Sun Valley, that these chicks are not considered to be living beings, they are just considered as production machines, effectively, can be disposed of as and when they are no longer wanted."

Ms Steel continued into much deeper details about lighting levels, heat stress, inspection, stocking densities, genetic selection, weight gains, life spans, litter condition, leg problems, mortality rates, antibiotics, growth promoters etc.

On the subject of stocking density, she revealed, "despite the fact that Mr Pattison [Group Technical Manager of Sun Valley] was on the committee of the Farm Animal Welfare Council which had produced the report on the welfare of broiler chickens for the government, he accepted that Sun Valley are not complying with its recommendations [regarding stocking density]."

She went on to point out that on Mr Pattisons' own admission it was clear that Sun Valley ignored additional recommendations by the Farm Animal Welfare Council; their lighting levels being below the minimum suggested, and periods of darkness being too short.

Exhausted, Ms Steel requested at 4pm that they adjourn, to which Justice Bell agreed.

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