Trial News 2 (September 1995)

This information was supplied by the McLibel Support Campaign

The High Court libel trial brought by the $26 billion a year McDonald's Corporation against two unwaged London Greenpeace supporters began in June 1994 and is now expected to last until Spring 1996. It is already the longest libel trial in British history and looks likely to become the longest civil trial ever.

The libel is alleged to have occurred in 1989/90. Approximately 180 witnesses from the UK and around the world are giving evidence in court on all the issues in the case, namely:

Here follows a summary of some of the evidence from the trial given between January & July 1995:


Despite being flown over as the Corporation's most senior representative in order to give the background as to why they brought this libel case, Robert Beavers did not know when the action was begun or who made the decision or how it was made. He believed that the UK President Paul Preston was responsible for the initial decision. He claimed the factsheet "tarnished our image, brand and reputation", but the Defendants asserted that McDonald's "has a bad reputation in society". He accepted that all the main 'defamatory' criticisms in the Factsheet had been levelled at McDonald's by others in the past, in the USA and elsewhere, and "are in the public domain in America to some extent" but could not think of an example where they had sued anyone for libel. The Defendants then stated that: "The reality is the McDonald's Corporation could not sue anybody in the United States for the text of this Factsheet. They are joining this action in the UK because they want to use this court as a platform all over the world."


Robert Beavers, Senior Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of the McDonald's Corporation since 1984, was challenged with the London Greenpeace Factsheet extract which states that a diet high in fat, sugar, animal products and salt, and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals is linked with cancers of the breast and bowel and heart disease (which has been characterised by Richard Rampton QC as the most defamatory passage in the leaflet). He was asked to compare it with an extract from McDonald's UK's own pamphlet, written in 1984. He replied: "I can't spot any difference". In fact, he later criticised their own extract, mistaking it for the 'defamatory' London Greenpeace one!

Mr Beavers explained that McDonald's have pioneered production methods and "created an industry" which has "helped to expand the eating out sector". Half of all meals in the USA are now eaten outside of the home, he said - an increase from 1 in every 3 around 15-20 years ago. He said this was a worldwide trend, that "lifestyles are changing" and McDonald's have played a part in that. In countries where there had previously been no hamburger tradition, he said, advertising was 'part of the parcel' in establishing company's influence on the diet. Their food was advertised as 'nutritious' he said.

Mr Beavers stated that, back in the 1960's, McDonald's were "the trendsetters in the food industry, in particular the fast food service industry, in utilising national television"... "It was at that time that we introduced Ronald McDonald". He accepted that "no other marketing factor has been more important in distinguishing McDonald's as a leader in fast food than its early decision to appeal to children through advertising." He agreed that "in the early days [the company] probably did" spend more of its advertising budget on children's ads, and stated "within a short period of time Ronald was one of the most well known, popular characters in America".



Robert Beavers (US Senior Vice-President) was challenged on why McDonald's is still using ozone-damaging blowing agents (HCFCs) in their packaging in the Philippines, Turkey and Hong Kong, 15 years after the US Congress banned aerosol sprays because of concerns about the ozone layer The Defendants referred to a 1995 Corporation leaflet distributed in Hong Kong admitting HCFC use by McDonald's H.K. under the heading "We Care About The Ozone Layer"!

Although Mr Beavers recognised the benefits of in-store customer recycling of their packaging, and that the working of it "does not cause difficulty", Mr Langert (a previous McDonald's witness) had said "less than 10" stores out of 10,000 are doing this.


Usama Siddique and Stacey Stump, the former and current managers of McDonald's, Kings Road, London, gave evidence about the problems of company litter. They recognised there had been residents' complaints about litter over a number of years - complaints to the store, McDonald's Head Office and to the local Council. This had continued despite Mr Siddique laying on a 'candle-lit dinner' at the store for local residents in order to try to have a 'good rapport'. A file of dozens of residents associations' letters of complaint was shown to the court. One series of complaints culminated in a letter from Government Minister Nicholas Scott (local MP) to McDonald's President Paul Preston.

Approximately 1,500 sales a day were take-away custom - around 50% of the store's business, rising to 60% in the summer. The store was providing "something like 10,500 potential items of litter" (such as bags, straws, cups and napkins etc) every day. Mr Stump recognised that "there is a lot of McDonald's litter" and admitted that there were "times when the volume of business is so great and generates so much litter that [the store] cannot effectively deal with it in the course of a day". He also said "I have seen McDonald's litter in a lot of places, not just around my restaurant". Both managers claimed that 'trash walks' (litter patrols) to pick up all litter around a set route of nearby streets were done approximately every 30 minutes. (They claimed this had been done since the store opened, and happened at every store). They agreed that much litter ended up far from the store, or in local residents' basements, under cars or in bushes etc, where it would not be picked up by a litter patrol. Mr Stump said they were "trying to control the situation, not alleviate it 100%, that would not be possible".

Colin McIntyre, Press Officer of a local residents association and former executive member of the National Union of Journalists gave evidence for the Defendants. He explained that at the beginning of the nineties, when McDonald's planned to open a store in Kings Road, London, local residents opposed the plan (unsuccessfully), in part because they predicted it would create litter problems. He said the problem of litter had come up regularly at residents association meetings. He said that since the McDonald's had opened, rubbish in his street had got 'incredibly worse' and stated "I would say approximately 70% of litter is McDonald's". He produced photos that he had taken as evidence, showing McDonald's litter in his street and the surrounding area.

Initially the company carried out litter patrols two or three times a day, but this did not last. As part of it's application for a late opening licence, the company had assured the local council that regular litter patrols were in operation. Mr McIntyre said that "this was a blatant lie". He said that despite continuous complaints to McDonald's, there had been no litter patrol down his street for two and a half years. Apart from the council, the only people he had seen picking up litter were his neighbours. He added "I have seen one McDonald's litter cleaner, it was enough of a joke we all made a note of it in our diaries". Mr McIntyre told how local residents associations were also angry about the store causing increased traffic, noise and cooking smells and how they eventually set up an action group to consider legal action. "I object to litter in front of my house and in my basement" he said. "I do not really see why I should be condemned to litter for the rest of my life".

Professor Graham Ashworth, Director-General of the Tidy Britain Group ('TBG'), witness for McDonald's, said that the TBG is an agency which is recognised and funded by the government, but also is part funded by company sponsorship. He said that McDonald's were members of the TBG and had sponsored some of its activities. This amounted to around 200,000 pounds per annum. They then got the company logo on TBG leaflets. Companies such as McDonald's became members of the TBG by invitation. Coca Cola were also members, along with Shell, who Professor Ashworth agreed had been convicted and fined more than once for pollution incidents.

Professor Ashworth admitted that the Tidy Britain Group had eventually changed its name from the Keep Britain Tidy Group after "it had become apparent" in the late 1970's and early 80's that Britain was no longer tidy. It was, he said "strange to have an organisation talking about keeping a situation that did not exist". He also admitted that "the rise of fast food business" was "certainly a factor" (note: McDonald's UK was launched in 1974). He said that this was part of a "great increase in packaging" in general.

Professor Ashworth accepted that "when there are planning applications for new fast food stores (including McDonald's), litter is regularly a concern of objectors". He agreed that McDonald's was in the "top 1 or 2%" of all companies whose products end up as litter. He agreed that there were other problems with litter apart from the fact that people don't like looking at it. For example packaging, including polystyrene, "has been swallowed by animals in mistake for food", causing the wildlife to starve to death. Litter also ended up being blown from the streets into rivers and the sea.

Professor Ashworth agreed that "as much packaging waste as possible" should be removed from the waste stream. He added that it was "obvious common sense" that the order of priorities in dealing with packaging and waste was (1) prevention, (2) re-use, (3) recycling, (4) incineration (preferably with energy recovery), and (5) landfill (note McDonald's consumer packaging ends up in landfills or as litter). As a result of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities were now able to issue 'Street Litter Control Notices' to force businesses to clean up their litter within 'a reasonable distance' of their premises. In Germany, local authorities have the power to levy a tax on companies on the use of disposable packaging - Professor Ashworth revealed that similar legislation is now being considered in the UK.


Theo Hopkins, involved in forestry management and also an independent researcher on the degradation and destruction of temperate and boreal forests, gave evidence for the Defence on the damaging effects of modern industrial forestry. This related to McDonald's annual use of hundreds of thousands of tons of paper packaging in Europe and the USA. In general, Mr Hopkins said, large scale commercial forest exploitation has lead to the progressive reduction of natural, 'old-growth' or ancient forests, which are still being logged all over Europe, North America and elsewhere. This has generally continued despite protests and official 'protection' measures. He explained how monoculture plantations have tended to replace natural forests, but could not match such forests in their biodiversity, or in social, ecological, cultural or spiritual value. Therefore, they could not be described as 'sustainable' forests, even under official international guidelines.

The use by McDonald's of products utilising paper sourced from such forests was, Mr Hopkins said, "self-evidently damaging to the environment". Only since the late 1980's has the forest industry publicly had to recognise these problems, faced with publicity and pressure from the public. In particular, in contrast to the ecologically rich natural forests, plantations have very few tree species and less variety of insects, fungi, animals, plants and birds. This is due not only to the character of commercial plantations, but also to damaging techniques of forest management - the effects of planting non-native species, age uniformity, clear cutting, machine use, removing decaying trees, etc. Mr Hopkins said that "in 1989/90, at the time of the alleged libel, there was virtually no concern by government and forest industry for ecological sustainability". Whilst some problems are now being recognised, this has only just started to have some effect on the 'forest floor'.

Mr Hopkins outlined some particular environmental problems in countries which provided the source for McDonald's packaging in North America and Europe: USA & Canada - there is much logging and clear cutting of natural forest; Czech Republic - forests are being cut down faster than they can be regenerated; Finland & Sweden - very little ancient forest remains; hundreds of species dependent on forest ecosystems are endangered by modern forestry methods; UK - since the Second World War, over 40% of what little ancient woodland existed then has been felled, largely being replaced by conifer plantations (which lead to acidification of watercourses).

Mr Hopkins quoted expert concerns over the scale of world pulp production (which had "increased by 5 times over the last 40 years", being "the major use of timber" from managed forests), and the effects of pulp production "due to the highly polluting milling processes". In order to protect forests, he said the first priority is to reduce paper consumption, especially in rich countries which consume vast quantities. He said that significant quantities existed of alternative plant sources of paper fibre (eg. kenaf, hemp, bagasse, cotton waste...), often of better quality than wood pulp.


David Walker, the Chairman and owner of McKey Foods, gave evidence for McDonald's. McKeys, a former subsidiary of McDonald's, has been the sole supplier since 1978 of the company's UK hamburgers, now one million per day. Mr Walker admitted that he had personally organised the direct import of 5 consignments of Brazilian beef for McDonald's UK stores in 1983/4 - sold to them by the Vestey's plant at Barretos, Brazil. A letter from Mr Walker to the managing director of Weddels (a Vestey subsidiary) was quoted in court. It revealed that the imports were a matter of great controversy. Mr Walker confirmed that he had written the letter, which stated that Prince Philip, the President of the World Wildlife Fund, had recently met George Cohon, President of McDonald's Canada, and had said (quoting from the Walker letter 17/5/83): " 'So you are the people who are tearing down the Brazilian rainforests and breeding cattle' to which the reply was: 'I think you are mistaken', whereupon HRH said 'Rubbish' and stormed away". Following this, the letter stated that Fred Turner, the Chairman of the McDonald's Corporation, "issued a worldwide edict that no McDonald's plant was to use Brazilian beef". The same letter revealed that Bob Rhea, then Managing Director of McDonald's UK, had given Walker permission to use the Brazilian beef imports. The imports went through, and were kept secret from Prince Philip, from the World Wildlife Fund, from the BBC (who were sued the following year) and from Friends of the Earth (in meetings in 1985). The whole scandal only came to light due to a handwritten letter mistakenly disclosed by McDonald's solicitors in a bundle of other documents to the McLibel Defendants last year.


David Walker of McKey Foods admitted that "as a result of the meat industry, the suffering of animals is inevitable".

Ashley Bowes, Director of GD Bowes Ltd (McDonald's pig meat supplier), said that Bowes owns roughly 100,000 pigs. 40,000 were reared on their own farms; the others were reared on a contract system. The company also buys about 300,000 pigs each year from approximately 80-100 other suppliers, to be slaughtered at the company's abattoir.

During his opening speech at the start of the trial, Mr Rampton QC had claimed that the London Greenpeace Factsheet was libellous because it stated that some of the animals reared for McDonald's products - especially chickens and pigs - spend their lives in factory farms with no access to the open air. He asserted that "Whilst it is true that a lot of chickens live in large sheds, it is not true of pigs. The pigs used for McDonald's food in this country at least, live in the open air in fields."

Dr Gregory (expert witness for McDonald's) had visited Bowes in order to prepare his expert report for the court, but had only been shown the outdoor system. When questioned by Richard Rampton QC, Mr Bowes' testimony concentrated on the outdoor system of rearing that the company used, rather than the indoor. But under cross-examination by the Defendants, Mr Bowes admitted that there were "two separate buying channels for pigs" (indoor and outdoor) and that McDonald's bought indoor pork and would only get outdoor pork if there was some left over. Asked if it was the case that McDonald's were not willing to pay as much as other customers to purchase 'free range' meat, Mr Bowes replied "I wish they would".

Sows bought for indoor breeding stock would have been born and reared indoors for the 8-10 months before the company got them, Mr Bowes admitted. He said his own company farms had never used dry sow stalls. He said "I shall welcome it when they are banned totally in this country" (in 1998) and said he was against the use of them because of "the restriction on the sow... I personally think it is not a good method of animal production for an animal to be shut in the stall for all that time"... "It is not comfortable". However, he admitted that about 12% of their suppliers still used the dry sow stalls, and that about 7 years ago up to 50% would have been using them. Dry sow stalls are narrow metal barred stalls (about 2.1 metres by 0.6 metres) in which the sow cannot turn around, and can only stand up or lie down. The floor is concrete or slats or can be both. After mating the sow is taken to the dry sow stall and remains there until she goes to the farrowing crate (nearly 4 months).

The company's own farm has 3 indoor breeding units. The sows are kept in groups of 6 or 12 until two days before they are expected to give birth, when they are moved to farrowing crates. The crates are slightly wider than the sow and about 0.5 - 0.75 metres longer. Mr Bowes admitted that it was impossible for the sows to turn round. The sows endured 3 to 4 weeks in the crates, until the piglets were weaned. Three days after weaning, the whole breeding cycle was started again. Mr Bowes said the "sows have on average 7 litters" before they were slaughtered at about 3-4 years.

Bowes weans piglets at 24 days. They are then reared in what he called "indoor kennels", with roughly 20 weaners in each kennel, until they reached 30kg. At least until a few years ago, Mr Bowes was aware of some suppliers using the flat-deck system for rearing weaners. The weaners would be kept "15 or 20" in an area "roughly 12 by 14 feet", normally on a metal or plastic mesh floor without any bedding. At 30kg (around 9 or 10 weeks), the pigs were transferred to indoor "finishing units", where for the last part of their lives there was only 0.52 square metre of floor space per pig, plus an enclosed and roofed dunging area. They remained in the finishing units until they reached 90kg liveweight (at around 22 or 23 weeks old), when they were sent for slaughter.

Pigs were slaughtered at a rate of 220-240 an hour at the company's own slaughterhouse. They were stunned using "head only stunning". When Dr Gregory (expert witness for McDonald's) had visited the plant, he calculated that the current used to stun the pigs was 0.45 amps. The Government's Codes of Practice state that for head only stunning the current should be a minimum of 1.3 amps, otherwise the pig "is unlikely to be stunned effectively". Mr Bowes claimed that Dr Gregory's figure was wrong because he hadn't taken into account the fact that Bowes sprayed the piglets with water before stunning, which he said "improved the conductivity". Dr Long, for the Defence stated that he had "a great deal of concern" about this, because there was a danger that "the current tracks round the conducting wet surface instead of going through the more resistant part of the head", so the pig "would not be properly stunned and would be stuck while it still had a sense of feeling". Mr Bowes admitted that some pigs were stunned with the tongs "on each side of the neck". The Codes of Practice state "electrodes should not be applied behind the ears or on each side of the neck, otherwise the animal may be paralysed without being rendered unconscious and may suffer severe pain".

Mr Bowes said that his company had used growth promoters (such as clenbuterol) until "about 5 years ago" when they were banned by the EC. He admitted that until that time "it was fairly standard practice in the industry".

Timothy Chambers, Quality Assurance Manager from Midland Meat Packers Ltd (the largest of dozens of abattoirs supplying beef for McDonald's hamburgers) said that 600 - 800 animals are killed there daily. Cattle are transported there live "from all over the country", sometimes hundreds of miles. His company, he said, "care about the animals' welfare, for commercial reasons as much as anything else", because if they are "subjected to stress" prior to slaughter the meat can become dark and "aesthetically unpleasing", and therefore "devalued quite considerably". They supply ex-dairy cows for McDonald's use - the company's own expert witness admitted in the witness box that such cows lived a life of particular stress and hardship. The court had heard that McKey's had calculated that McDonald's used beef from one in twelve (8%) of all cattle slaughtered in the UK.

Mr Chambers admitted his company did use electric shock goads to move cattle around, contrary to claims by McDonald's that this practice was banned by their suppliers. Company documents stated that one of their concerns is to prevent "animals escaping". Mr Kenny (McDonald's Senior Quality Assurance Supervisor) asserted that McDonald's had a policy against the use of electric goads to move cattle, but was unaware that their largest supplying slaughterhouse was still using such goads.

Dr Alan Long, an independent researcher for over 40 years, gave evidence for the Defence. He had studied at first hand conditions for cattle and pigs on farms, at markets, in transportation and slaughterhouses. His evidence was that animals had been turned into production 'machines', subject to stress and distress, disease, abuse, and a short and totally unnatural life. Dairy cattle (as used for McDonald's burgers) have a particularly exploited existence based on continuous forced pregnancies and almost constant lactation until exhausted, and then transported under extreme stress to be 'burgered' at 5 or 6 years old. "Cows kept without such stress have a life span of 25-35 years," he said. Cows showed signs of great distress when their calves were taken from them at a very young age, frequently mooing and bellowing, sometimes for several days. A whole series of what are termed 'production diseases' affected dairy cows - effectively brought on by "excessive pressures of production". These included mastitis (a painful udder condition) which affected about 35% of dairy cows in Britain. Dr Long said output from a modern dairy cow is approx. 5,500 litres a year, about twice what it was at the end of the 1940's. Sometimes the strain on the udder caused it to drop and then, in order to avoid kicking the udder, the cows would walk in an unnatural way which caused lameness.

In Dr Long's opinion, intensively reared pigs (which McDonald's use) generally suffer a similarly unpleasant fate. At the end of the 1980's, over 50% of sows spent nearly all their lives in stalls and crates, with no freedom of movement, unable even to turn round. He criticised animal slaughter practices stating that noise and handling methods (including use of goads) led to high levels of stress and even terror. He was also highly critical of inefficient stunning methods. 'Humane killing' is a 'lie' he said. He believed that 'consumption of such cruelly derived foods is unnecessary' and that whilst he would welcome any improvements in conditions for the animals, they had a right to a life of dignity and freedom - to relax and to root in the open air, to play, to socialise, and to rear their young.

As an expert biochemist and nutritionist, Dr Long had further concluded that "growth boosters and other 'performance enhancers' may be masqueraded as animal health products". Diseases caused by modern farming methods, and the drugs used to combat them not only cause problems for the animals but also risks for human health too (such as BSE). He shared concerns about the risks of eating meat containing antibiotic, hormone, and pesticide residues. He also said that modern livestock production causes much pollution (from silage effluents and slurry), especially in the dairy, poultry and pig industries.

CHICKENS Mark Pattison, Group Technical Manager of Sun Valley Poultry Ltd (a subsidiary of Cargill) ('SVP'), gave evidence for McDonald's about the conditions under which chickens were reared to produce the meat for chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches. 27 million chickens are reared every year in Europe to supply meat to McDonald's. About 20% of SVP's turnover is devoted to McDonald's custom.

Dr Pattison said that SVP hatches chicks 4 days a week "in the order of 200,000 chicks each day". Eggs that do not hatch out are put through the macerator, which he agreed might include chickens still alive in the eggs. The company kills an additional 200-300 unwanted chicks each day, by gassing them with carbon dioxide.

Chicks are transported to the broiler units when they are a few hours old. When they arrive, the chicks are routinely given antibiotics in their feed for the first week of their lives in an attempt to reduce infectious disease. Around 550 broiler sheds are used by the company, approx. 110 were company owned and 440 were run by contractors. Dr Pattison said "For broilers we normally have 20-25,000 [birds] in a modern shed" of "14,500 square feet". Broiler houses were generally stocked with roughly twice as many males as females with a partition between them. Females are taken out for slaughter at 42 days old, weighing approx. 2kg. The males were slaughtered at 52 days, weighing approx. 3kg. Throughout their lives there was never any "opportunity to go outside" Dr Pattison admitted. He agreed that 'farmyard' chickens "can live up to 5 to 10 years".

Despite his being on the committee of the Farm Animal Welfare Council which produced the Report on the Welfare of Broiler Chickens (for the Government), Dr Pattison accepted that SVP are not complying with its recommendation that the 34kg per square metre stocking density "should not be exceeded at any time during the growing period". The stocking density at SVP is "about 36.5kg per square metre". He accepted that the birds "have less space each than an A4 sheet of paper", but said "I do not believe it is cruel". Dr Pattison said "economics are a very important factor, of course" in why the company had not reduced stocking density. Dr Pattison said SVP "normally run our sheds at a lighting level between 10 and 20 lux", with 20-30 minutes of darkness in any 24 hour period. The FAWC report recommends a minimum of 20 lux with at least 30 minutes of darkness every 24 hours.

The average mortality rate to 52 days is around 6-6.5% he said. 30-50 birds "would be one day's mortality" for a shed. Ascites disease was "one of the major causes of mortality" in flocks Dr Pattison said, accounting for "10-15% of the total deaths". He agreed it was caused as a result of the rapid growth of broilers with the result that they were "too big for their lung size". He said "this only occurs in broiler chickens". Dr Pattison also admitted that from 1989-92 Gumboro disease was a common problem. He said between 1989-91, Sun Valley "were losing 2.5% of all our birds every week" "over and above the normal mortality". He agreed that "broiler houses provide the ideal conditions for the rapid spread of viral diseases like Gumboro". Chickens suffered from other health problems including leg weaknesses (which Dr Pattison admitted were often a consequence of breeding birds for weight, and also lack of exercise) and hockburns (10% of chickens are currently affected). From their arrival to 5 days before slaughter, the bird's food contained growth promoters, Dr Pattison said. "The ones normally used are Zinc Bacitracin, Virginia Mycin or Avo Parcin" which are "antibiotic compounds". He agreed that "there is a greater chance of leg problems the faster the chickens grow".

Birds were caught and loaded into crates in modules and transported by lorry to the slaughter plant (an average distance of 25-30 miles, sometimes up to 70 miles). Catchers were instructed to carry up to 6 birds in one hand, holding them by one leg. They were crammed 18-30 birds to a crate of approx. 3ft x 2ft x 10 inches. Dr Pattison said that the kinds of injuries which birds may suffer in the process of catching included dislocation of the hip joint (which may cause haemorrhage), broken legs and crushed heads (if their head was caught between the crate and the module when the drawers were being shut). Dr Pattison claimed such injuries were not common. However, defence witness John Bruton (a former catcher for Sun Valley) said that such injuries were a regular occurrence as the catchers were not given enough time to take care with the birds, despite voicing their concerns to the company. This was particularly so after the company reduced the number of catchers to cut costs. A team of 6 catchers was expected to load a lorry with between 4-6000 birds, about every 45 minutes.

See Trial News 1 for report of Dr Gregory's evidence on the problems he witnessed with slaughter methods at SVP. Dr Pattison claimed SVP had since installed a new stun bath and had "virtually eliminated the problem of pre-stunning shocks" which he said "used to be a big problem in the old design of stunning baths".

Keith Kenny claimed McDonald's was concerned about animal welfare and would 'discontinue' any supplier not complying with official Codes of Practice. However, their supplier Sun Valley Poultry's practice of keeping chickens over the official maximum stocking density didn't worry him. He said "in my opinion, the birds in Sun Valley do not suffer". Eggs used by McDonald's are supplied by Oasters Ltd, who keep chickens in battery cages. Mr Kenny said he considered keeping chickens in battery cages with much less space than an A4 sheet of paper to be "humane". He said he had visited Oasters and "the birds seemed to be very happy".

Clare Druce, researcher for the Farm Animal Welfare Network, testified for the Defence that the "modern broiler chicken is a genetic freak, the product of generations of selection for fast growth. This selection has shown a marked lack of concern for the birds' well-being." "Birds are frequently diseased, lifeless and crippled," she added, and "suffer from painful and crippling leg weaknesses" due to their unnatural weight, and also suffer from a number of common diseases. Some of these diseases "may remain sub-clinical yet cause serious diseases in humans eating contaminated meat," especially in "the young, pregnant, old and immuno-compromised".

Ms Druce stated that the broilers' "living conditions are unacceptable, being unsuited to the birds' needs and insanitary" with "overcrowding, dim lighting, inadequate ventilation, and filthy litter". The broilers' parent stock are made to suffer "a state of acute hunger for extended periods" to get them to reproduce satisfactorily. Additionally, she questioned the effectiveness of electric stunning and neck cutting during chicken slaughter, as well as all aspects of the rearing, transportation and slaughter process imposed upon hundreds of millions of chickens every day in this country. In her opinion "welfare problems" were due to "thinking only of profit and quick growth, with no regard whatsoever for the behavioural patterns or needs or the feelings of the birds".

As a result of her own research, including raising former battery and broiler chickens, Ms Druce had concluded that chickens "ancestral patterns are never, never outbred, never lost by changes in habitat - they are still there, precisely the same". This only served to underline the cruelty of modern systems and the right of chickens to live a natural life.

Food Safety

Food poisoning - John Atherton (responsible for food and employee safety in McDonald's UK) admitted that McDonald's receives between 1500-2750 customer complaints of food poisoning a year, maybe more than that. The company also received complaints of 'foreign bodies' in food sold. Mr Walker had estimated 800 complaints regarding hamburgers, mostly concerning bits of plastic. Mr Atherton stated it was 'slightly more' for chicken, mostly concerning pieces of bone.

The court heard that there had been several occasions when the authorities had taken action against McDonald's for selling raw or undercooked meat products including an incident in November 1994 when a 3 year old girl was served undercooked Chicken McNuggets containing salmonella. The McNuggets were tested by local health officials and declared unfit for human consumption.

The court also heard how the company now admitted responsibility for a serious food poisoning outbreak in Preston in 1991, when several customers were hospitalised as a result of eating undercooked burgers contaminated by potentially deadly E.Coli 0157H bacteria. They also admitted responsibility for a similar outbreak in 1982 caused by the same type of bacteria, which affected 47 people in Oregon and Michigan, USA.

NB: McDonald's have refused to call their own expert witness on food poisoning, Colin Clarke, who prepared a detailed report following a visit he made to three company stores. The court heard that, regarding the cooking of hamburgers (which he had tested), Mr Clark "recommends that 73 degrees Celsius be the internal minimum temperature of the final product, and that their temperatures were not reaching that in all cases. The minimum was, in fact, 70 degrees Celsius."

The Corporation's confidential Operations Manual for all stores world-wide was quoted. It set a minimum internal temperature to be reached of 64 degrees Celsius for a cooked burger. Robert Beavers said the company was "maybe 99.8%" sure this temperature was safe. But he believed it had been raised a degree or two following the deaths of two customers of Jack-In-The-Box a couple of years back, in a similar incident to the 1982 McDonald's one. He admitted that this recent incident had "heightened the awareness of everyone in the industry" and agreed that the US Government "was concerned" about internal temperatures of cooked burgers and was considering introducing regulations 'if necessary'.

Dr Pattison said that so far as chicken products are concerned, the principal hazards to human health are campylobacter and salmonella food poisoning organisms. Campylobacter was generally found on 70% of raw poultry. Whilst, he claimed, salmonella was now only found in 1% of chickens coming into the plant, 25% of samples of their deboned meat contained salmonella organisms. He said that particularly for the very young and very old, "a very low number of organisms can cause food poisoning". The company did not test raw chicken for listeria, but Dr Pattison accepted that 60% of raw chickens were contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, which can also cause illness in people. He said that the bacteria would be killed when cooked, if the meat itself reached 70 degrees Celsius for 2 minutes.

Bacteriological Contamination of beef products - McDonald's are supplied with beef from a large percentage of UK abattoirs. Timothy Chambers (Quality Assurance Manager from Midland Meat Packers Ltd) expressed his concern that the widespread use of water sprays in abattoirs to 'clean' carcasses merely spread bacterial contamination around. He said he would be concerned about "health risks" from any batch of tested meat containing over 5 million bacteria per gram.

David Walker of McKeys explained how all raw beef supplies to McKey process plants were sampled, microbiologically tested, and categorised as 'satisfactory', 'passable', and 'unsatisfactory'. He stated that 'unsatisfactory' related to beef which had a total colony of more than 10 million bacteria per gram. He then admitted that such consignments were, in fact, not rejected and were used for McDonald's hamburgers. On top of this, he claimed that any raw meat supplies arriving at over 4 degrees Celsius would receive 'a cast iron rejection'. But on being challenged with McKeys own forms showing acceptance of beef arriving over 4 degrees Celsius, he admitted this happened and explained that instead "the quality control officer receiving the meat would make a management decision which was right for the company".

In January 1995, following months of effort by the Defendants to compel McDonald's to hand over vital 1994 documents regarding the bacterial content of their hamburgers, the court was told that a small snag had just come to light. Richard Rampton QC, for McDonald's, said that the documents had been held for safekeeping by Group 4 security but had inadvertently been destroyed by them in error.

Growth promoters - McDonald's UK company documents state that "McDonald's will not accept beef from cattle subjected growth promoters or hormone treatment". Mr Kenny said it was "not desirable" to have hormones or antibiotics in the food chain. He believed that the concern with antibiotics was that "treatment resistant strains of bacteria may develop in the human body". The use of growth promoting hormones is illegal in the UK, but McDonald's have acknowledged that they are widely used in the USA and the company uses meat from animals subjected to growth promoters. Mr Kenny also acknowledged 'public concerns' over pesticide residues in food and stated that McDonald's "would not want them in the food chain" because of health risks. The Defendants referred to a 1987 US National Research Council major report on pesticide residues which found that beef ranked second of the list of foods with the greatest estimated 'oncogenic' (carcinogenic) risk. Mr Kenny admitted that their lettuce contained pesticide residues, although he believed the residue levels were within government 'limits'.

Employees and Trade Unions

Low Pay and No Guaranteed Hours - Sid Nicholson, McDonald's UK Vice President, (who was Head of Personnel from 1984 - 1991, combining this for most of the time with the job of Head of Security) admitted that McDonald's set their starting rates for crew employees for most of the country "consistently either exactly the same as the minimum rates of pay set by the Wages Council or just a few pence over them". He agreed that for crew aged 21 or over the company "couldn't actually pay any lower wages without falling foul of the law". He stated that when the Wages Council abolished the legal protection of a minimum wage for under-21s (in 1986) "I was quite content..because it simplified things". However, he said "I do not accept that McDonald's crew are low paid" and he denied that wages in the catering industry were low compared to other industries. Robert Beavers (US Senior Vice-President) admitted that McDonald's US workers started at the legal minimum wage of $3.35 per hour. He agreed the company "would not be allowed to pay less". "I do not consider it ($3 - $4 p.h.) to be low pay. It is a fair wage for the work that is expected" he stated. He refused to reveal his own salary. There were "no hours guaranteed" and 80% of the jobs were part time.

Pay, Mr Nicholson admitted, "would be one of the things that is often mentioned" when staff were asked what improvements they would like at McDonald's, but, he said "you show me any working man who feels he is getting enough pay"..."I do not feel I am getting enough pay". He admitted that in 1993 McDonald's senior management levels had salaries over 75,000 pounds p.a. plus benefits and perks. At that time the starting rate for crew members outside London was 3 pounds per hour for over 18's and 2.65 pounds per hour for 16 & 17 year olds. Mr Nicholson said that these were the basic rates and that crew could increase their pay rates by passing 'Performance Reviews'. Company documents revealed that in order to obtain a 5p per hour rise the crew member would have to score at least 76%, for a 10p per hour rise 87%, and for a 15p per hour rise 93.5%. The guideline for attaining 87% or over was that employee "performance consistently exceeds job requirements and expectations".

About 80% of crew people are 'part-time', averaging about 20 hours per week. Mr Nicholson admitted that employees do not have any guaranteed hours or pay at McDonald's. He agreed that managers have the power, while any crew person is working their scheduled shift, to compulsorily cut or extend the hours being worked (the crew handbook states: "On occasions you may be asked to continue working past your normal finishing time. You will be released as soon as the need for your service has passed"). Even breaks could be cut. In any event, crew are not paid for meal breaks.

McDonald's, Mr Nicholson admitted, has never paid overtime rates, despite the Wages Council setting minimum overtime rates for all hours worked over 39 hours in a week. He said overtime pay was unnecessary because of company policy setting a maximum of 39 hours a week for all crew. But the Defendants showed from disclosed Payroll reports that at least 5% of hourly-paid staff in London & the South worked over 39 hours each week. This, Mr Nicholson claimed, showed it was a 'rare' occurrence. Payroll records for one store indicated that 9 out of 53 employees worked over 78 hours in a fortnight (39 hrs p.w.). When asked if it would concern him if 17% of employees were working more than 39 hours a week, in breach of policy, he said "It would not concern me". He also stated "it is only policy". Mr Beavers (McDonald's US) agreed that in the US it would be illegal not to pay overtime to employees working more than 40 hrs p.w. He said he thought this was a "fair" law for the employees, but agreed that McDonald's would only pay overtime if forced to by law.

Mr Beavers admitted that Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder and Chair, had made a $250,000 donation to the controversial 1972 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon, a donation which was 'perhaps' a subject of investigation during the Watergate corruption scandal. The Defendants referred to passages of the 'Behind The Arches' book (written with McDonald's backing and assistance) which admitted that the donation came around the very time that McDonald's franchisees were lobbying to prevent an increase in the minimum wage, and to get legislation (dubbed 'The McDonald's Bill') passed to be able to pay a sub-minimum wage to some young workers.

Exploiting Young Workers - Approximately two thirds of McDonald's crew are under 21, and nearly one third are under 18. But Mr Nicholson denied McDonald's "chose to employ a high percentage of young workers so that they could exploit them for lower wages and make greater profits". McDonald's UK has admitted that it was convicted of 73 offences in relation to the employment of young people in the early 1980's. Mr Nicholson said that "since that time I have no knowledge of any infringements of the regulations". He was quizzed by the Defendants about the statement of a forthcoming company witness who admitted that under-18s had worked illegal hours at Swindon McDonald's, but 'only' on 'one or two' occasions. Additionally, time sheets obtained by the Defendants revealed five breaches of the law relating to the employment of young people in one week at Orpington in 1987. Other documents revealed that as recently as 1993, on average 2-3 under 18's were showing up on company records as working in excess of 96 hours in a fortnight (48 hours a week) which until 1990 was illegal, and was still, according to Mr Nicholson, against company policy.

McDonald's, Mr Beavers accepted "depends for their profits (over $1 billion p.a.) on the labour of young people." He agreed the majority of people working for McDonald's in the USA were under 21 and admitted they positively recruit youth. He admitted that in 1988/9, Pennsylvania authorities cited 466 violations of child labour laws at 8 Philadelphia McDonald's stores (run by a franchisee), but the owner/manager was not sacked. The Defendants accused the Corporation of 'double standards' when comparing this with crew members who can face summary dismissal for a single 'offence' against company rules. In fact, despite claiming earlier that higher standards of 'honesty' and 'ethics' applied to those in the Company's hierarchy, he could not think of a single example of any officials being sacked for violating Company policy.

Pressure to Boost Profits - The Defendants showed a documentary 'One Every Mile', filmed with McDonald's permission inside two London stores, which portrayed the reality of the high-pressure working conditions for employees. Mr Nicholson agreed the conditions shown were 'typical' of high volume stores. Crew were filmed complaining about pay, of pay rises being delayed, about 'hours worked being under-recorded' and that the pressure of the work 'does your brain in'. The documentary, made for Channel 4, was never broadcast. Commenting on the fact that there was a preponderance in the film of managers with an ex-military background, the witness said that such people bring a "sense of discipline" to McDonald's.

Mr Nicholson admitted that store managers were under pressure from higher up to keep labour costs down. Company documents revealed that a former manager in Newcastle (and witness for the Defendants) had been ordered amongst other things to get his labour costs down "within targeted labour guidelines" (of between 14-16% of sales) or face dismissal. Internal company documents showing profit and loss projections for 1992 revealed that the company had planned to reduce the overall crew labour costs nationally as a percentage of turnover (at about 15% of sales) whilst increasing the management percentage. Meanwhile, in 1992, the manager of another Newcastle store was jailed for 6 months for inducing a crew member to phone through a hoax bomb threat to nearby Burger King in order to boost sales at McDonald's.

Each year a McDonald's 'Store of the Year' is chosen by the company because of its "consistently high standards" in all areas, including personnel matters. It is used as an example to others. In 1987, Colchester was chosen. A statement of the company's own witness - an Operations Manager at McDonald's with responsibility for 20 stores - revealed that special clean-ups were ordered at the Colchester store when senior management were due to visit, some employees having to work through the night to complete the clean-up. Further, breaks were sometimes shortened and hours could be compulsorily cut or extended. The manager admitted that crew sometimes worked up to 50 hours a week (which Mr Nicholson said indicated the store was under-crewed), or did double shifts (about which he commented "they would be exhausted"). When challenged over these practices at their so-called 'exemplary' store, Mr Nicholson stated that if they were happening in all McDonald's stores in the country "it would not concern me".

Employee safety

On October 12th 1992, Mark Hopkins, a McDonald's worker in Manchester, was electrocuted on touching a 'fat filtering unit' machine in the 'wash-up' area of the store. A McDonald's memo from the north west region dated 17/2/92, was quoted which revealed that "there have been several recent instances in our restaurants where members of staff have received severe shocks from faulty items of electrical equipment". Following an investigation of the death, the Manchester Environmental Health Department issued a Prohibition Order forcing McDonald's to install 'Residual Current Devices' on all electrical equipment in wash-up areas. In their view, accepted by Mr Atherton, without such devices there was 'a risk of serious personal injury'. The devices were fitted nationally following Mr Hopkins' death.

Jill Barnes (McDonald's UK Hygiene and Safety Officer) was challenged over a previously confidential internal report into Mark Hopkins' death. It had catalogued a number of company failures and problems, and had made the damning conclusion: "Safety is not seen as being important at store level". In addition, a confidential Health & Safety Executive report of 1992 made 23 recommendations for improvements. One of its conclusions was "The application of McDonald's hustle policy [ie. getting staff to work at speed] in many restaurants was, in effect, putting the service of the customer before the safety of employees". The Defendants referred to McDonald's Crew Training Programme which stated "When do you use hustle? (All the time)". Mr Beavers stated that the 'hustle' policy of fast working emanated from the US and applied to their (over a million) workers all over the world. But he was unaware that the 'hustle' policy had been lambasted by the UK Health & Safety Executive.

Management Manipulation

McDonald's produces a bi-monthly magazine - 'McNews' - which, Mr Nicholson said, is "targeted at restaurant crew" "to portray a kind of corporate identity to the crew". On their first day, all new crew people are shown an official McDonald's 'orientation' video to, he said, 'inject' a 'family feeling'. He denied this was 'brainwashing' and said "If they do not like it they do not need to stay". As part of the performance reviews (needed to obtain a pay rise) crew were marked on their "attitude" "towards store success" and their "desire to progress". Crew people failing to have the right attitude "could probably be terminated" he stated.

Mr Beavers explained how management are trained to motivate staff - "We introduced psychology in some of our personnel courses" he said, (at their so-called Hamburger University). Asked if their workers "are taught to identify with the goals of the company" he replied "hopefully they do,". They are given an 'orientation' "so that they understand how their work efforts fit into the big picture". 'Discipline', he said, is one of their 'basic values'. But he denied that McDonald's "wish to take advantage of a vulnerable, inexperienced sector of society" or that what a young worker is really taught "is to be a cog in a machine, to be obedient, not to question the idiocy of the job which you are doing, and to basically be a slave for the Company".

Mr Nicholson accepted that despite working in a fast moving and hot environment, workers had to get permission to have a drink. Whilst management can change crew hours of work at will, and the Crew Handbook lists dozens of examples where management can direct, restrict or ban employees activity and behaviour (under threat of disciplinary action and summary dismissal) Mr Nicholson couldn't, when asked, think of a single right that workers had except where there was statutory protection. In the US "no notice is required" to "terminate" an employee, Mr Beavers said, and the Company would "reserve the right to change any term or condition of the employment without prior consultation or agreement". "They have no guaranteed employment rights. They do not have guaranteed employment or guaranteed conditions of employment" Beavers stated.

Company figures showed that in December 1989, annualised crew turnover at McDonald's in both the UK and USA was approx 190%. During 1986 it reached as high as 241% in the USA. Mr Beavers admitted that "consistent and important" reasons given by McDonald's workers for quitting their jobs included (as revealed in the Company's Operations Manual): "poor treatment - lack of recognition, poor people practices, dissatisfaction with pay, low and/or infrequent raises", "no job enjoyment or satisfaction" and "poor working conditions - faulty and missing equipment". Many of these were "the by-products of understaffing".

Anti-Union Practices

Mr Beavers agreed that in the early 1970's McDonald's employed an official, John Cooke, who had a responsibility "to keep the Unions out". The Defendants referred to a quote by John Cooke in the book, 'Behind The Arches' (written with McDonald's backing and assistance): "Unions are inimical to what we stand for and how we operate. They peddle the line to their members that the boss will be forevermore against their interests." The book also stated that "of the 400 serious organisation attempts in the early 1970's, none was successful", and Mr Beavers admitted this was due to 'steps' taken by McDonald's "to try to prevent trade union organisation...around that time when it was actually a problem."

Mr Beavers admitted that, in the 1970's, he and company managers around the USA had used "lie detectors" (half-hour polygraph tests) on current or potential employees. The practice only ceased "when it was obvious that the law was going to be passed making it illegal". Prior to this John Cooke had sent a memo to top executives stating "I think the union was effective in terms of reaching the public with the information that we do use polygraph tests in a gestapo type manner" and suggesting stopping their use. Mr Beavers admitted that in some cases, refusal to take such a test would have led to dismissal. He claimed not to know about a 1974 San Francisco Labor Board hearing at which McDonald's workers testified that lie-detectors had been used to ask about union sympathies, following which the company was threatened with legal action.

Stan Stein (McDonald's US Senior Vice-President, Head of Personnel & Labour Relations) was questioned about the company's worldwide hostility to trade unions (TUs). Mr Stein said that he had worked for McDonald's since 1974 and during that time none of the company's restaurants in the USA had been unionised. Whenever TUs in any corner of the globe made serious attempts to organise McDonald's workers, Mr Stein himself seems to have jetted into town. The court heard about a number of disputes including:

  • Mexico 1985 - a union seized and occupied for 3 weeks the first McDonald's store (which had opened with non-union labour). McDonald's agreed to recognise a different union, and all McDonald's stores are still unionised.
  • Puerto Rico 1970's - up to 1974, McDonald's employees were unionised, but the company was sold to a new franchisee. A dispute followed, closing all the stores and McDonald's pulled out of Puerto Rico. They reopened in 1980 with non-union labour.
  • Chicago, USA 1978 - in one store, a majority of McDonald's workers joined a union. The company then took legal action to stop recognition for the union unless they could get a majority in the 8 stores run by the franchisee.
  • Detroit, USA 1980 - after workers in a store joined a union, the company's organised a visit by a top baseball star, staff disco, and 'McBingo' prior to elections for union representation
  • Arkansas, USA 1983 - the UFCW union, which was interested in recruiting McDonald's workers, was involved in a union dispute at a chicken processing plant supplying McDonald's. The union launched a boycott of McDonald's 'McNuggets' and picketed many of its stores. Mr Stein spent up to '80%' of a whole year fighting the union's campaign.
  • Ireland 1979 - a 7 month strike lead to recognition of the ITGWU union. In 1985, two union activists won a victory at a labour court after claiming victimisation and unfair dismissal.
  • Denmark 1980-90 - throughout the 1980's, unions attempted to negotiate with McDonald's the standard 'collective agreement' for food service companies. After protracted legal disputes and boycotts, McDonald's recognised the union in 1989.
  • Germany 1979-90 - in 1979, a letter was sent from McDonald's personnel office with instructions to store managers not to hire any union sympathisers. In the 1980's, there were disputes with the NGG union, and eventually the company signed a union agreement in 1990.
  • Philadelphia, USA 1989 - McDonald's stores in Philadelphia were independently surveyed and accused of having racist differential wage rates between the inner-city stores (mostly black workers) and the suburbs (mostly white workers). Mr Stein had intervened and believed the campaign to be a front for a union recruitment effort.
  • Madrid, Spain 1986 - four workers who had called for union elections were sacked by McDonald's. The company was forced to reinstate the workers after the labour court ruled that the dismissals were illegal.
  • China 1993 - in Beijing, protest leaflets were circulated about conditions Iceland 1993 - when they opened their first store, McDonald's refused to negotiate with TUs, but after a strike and boycott threat, the company conceded.
  • Canary Islands 1993 - McDonald's were fined 13 million pesetas for falsely claiming state subsidies for 'staff training'.
  • Canada 1993/4 - workers in an Ontario store joined a union, but the company managed to avoid recognition by ensuring victory in Labour Board sponsored elections. Mr Stein was also questioned about other disputes with Trade Unions in France, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands.