Defendants defiant on " McLibel" case anniversary

Richard Meares

Reuter Business Report, June 28, 1995

Two environmentalists being sued by McDonald's burger chain in Britain's lengthiest libel case celebrated their first year in court Wednesday with a birthday cake and a vow to fight on to the bitter end.

McDonald's Corp. said the case, over alleged lies about its food and policies in a pamphlet the two distributed, was worth fighting despite publicity here portraying it as a Goliath bashing two Davids.

"We value our reputation very highly. We think that is worth defending," said its British communications director, Mike Love. But a U.S. McDonald's source said the parent company was embarrassed about what has been nicknamed the " McLibel" case.

On one side stands the world's biggest fast-food chain, which has hired a top-class libel lawyer and his team.

On the other are unemployed Londoners Dave Morris and Helen Steel, who have defended themselves in court despite being legal amateurs, funded only by $ 23,750 in donations from well-wishers.

"By pursuing them through the courts the corporation--worldwide turnover of $ 26 billion- looks to be taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut," BBC television said.

"We are committed to the ideas we believe and to fighting for those ideas, whatever the opposition is, and we are going to carry on doing that for the rest of our lives," Morris said.

Fifty-four witnesses have already been called to London's High Court and another 100 are due to appear in the case which is expected to last into next year.

"The longer this goes on, the more bad publicity McDonald's gets," said one supporter, who said a million of the disputed leaflets had been distributed in Britain.

The " McLibel Two" said in a statement that the issues at stake were the links between diet and ill-health, low pay, environmental damage from packaging and cattle ranching, animal suffering and the effects of advertising on children.

They accused the company of trying to silence its critics.

"Their efforts have backfired completely, only serving to anger the public and strengthen the determination of campaigners here and all over the world," they said.

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