McDonald's VsBBC

Summary:BBC TV Nature criticises McD for involvement in the destruction of tropical rainforest. Threatened with libel, the BBC apologises. The following is the demand for a public apology.

Mr. Massa

1st May 1984

Robin Hellier Esq.
Natural History Unit,
Whiteladies Road,

Dear Sir,

We are instructed by McDonald's Corporation of Oak Brook, Illinois who run the McDonald's chain in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the world.

We have seen the "Nature" television broadcast last Thursday, 26th April. One subject of that programme was the indiscriminate destruction of rain forests in central and south America and their replacement by cattle ranches to produce cheap beef for the hmburger market in the U.S.A.

Your reporter, Brian Leith, used the words "It doesn't seem that anyone can be blamed except you and me, the consumers". There followed this comment film showing various well known hamburger restaurant signs, prominent among which were our client's signs.

The unmistakable inference from this sequence is that our clients are connected with the importation into the U.S.A. of beef reared in areas which were recently rain forest.

Our clients dismiss this inference as totally and utterly without foundation and we regard it as a gross defamation of our clients whose support for the conservation of wildlife and natural resources throughout the world is a major part of their business philosophy.

The research and reputation of the World Wildlife Fund of C.H. 1196 Gland, Switzerland, on the subject of the destruction of tropical rain forests is well known. A principal contributor to their research is Mr. Norman Myers PhD of Upper Meadow, Old Road, Headlington, Oxford. Until 12 months ago Mr. Myers had made the same erroneous assumption as you have made. This came to our client's attention as a result of a comment made to Mr. George A. Cohon, the President of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited,by the President of the World Wildlife Fund, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Following that comment our clients brought to Mr. Myer's attention the fact that neither the U.S. nor the Canadian companies, nor any other McDonald's company has used or does use meat which comes from cattle reared in former rain forest areas.

It is clear from the attached copy letter from the Duke of Edinburgh to Mr. Cohon dated 27th June 1983 that Mr. Myers and the World Wildlife Fund were satisfied that our clients were exonerated from any implication in the destruction of rain forests.

In these circumstances you will understand why our clients take such exception to the defamation published in your programme last Thursday, and our clients require that you acknowledge your error by broadcasting the following statement at the beginning ofthe next "Nature" programme on Thursday this week, 3rd May:

"Before the start of this evening's programme we wish to broadcast an apology.

Viewers who saw last Thursday's programme on the destructing of rain forests in central America and their replacement with cattle ranches may have gained the impression that one of the hamburger companies importing beef from these ranches into the Unied States was McDonald's. As a result of information which has come to us since that programme we now know that such a view would be completely wrong and that in keeping with their corporate philosophy of conservation of wildlife and raw materials, nowhere in the world do McDonald's buy any beef from rain forest areas.

We apologise to McDonald's for any embarrassment that our programme may have caused them."

Please will you acknowledge receipt of this letter and confirm that the above apology will be broadcast. We reserve our clients position as to damages and costs,

Yours Faithfully,

The BBC's response to McDonald's demands

To :

Chuck Rubner
c.c. M Bayden

From :

Annette Allen - London

Date :

18th May 1984

Subject :


I am pleased to say that BBC 2 broadcast the apology at the beginning of last night's Nature Programme:-

"Viewers who saw the 26th April edition of Nature, on the destruction of rain forests in Central America, and their replacement with cattle ranches, may have been given the impression that McDonald's hamburgers are made with beef originating from thse ranches. McDonald's have informed us that they do not use such beef. We accept this, and apologise to McDonald's for any embarrassment our programme may have caused them."

We recorded the apology.


Annette Allen