PETA'S ads targetting Ronald McDonald as 'America's #1 Serial Killer were planned for display in the US in October, and in the UK in November. However, the UK advertising industry has caused controversy by banning them, even before they were submitted.

The McLibel defendants had a letter published about this in The Guardian [see below].

There then follows extracts from an article in 'Marketing' (a weekly UK trade magazine for those working in the advertising industry).

Guardian Letters, September 17th 1999


It is outrageous that the Advertising Standards Authority has banned animal welfare adverts criticising McDonald's [Bun Fight, Media, 13.9.99] despite the Corporation being severely criticised by the High Court in the McLibel case for being 'culpably responsable for animal cruelty'. The ASA's breathtaking hypocrisy is underlined as the Court also ruled [among the many findings in our favour, not just two as you stated] that McDonald's own marketing strategy - with its annual $2 billion spend - 'exploits children', and falsely promotes its food as 'nutritious'. In a society which is supposed to be concerned about protecting children, and reversing the growing incidence of ill-health caused by junk food diets, it is McDonald's advertising which clearly should be banned.

In reality, all corporate advertising is just in-yer-face capitalist propaganda. Popular movements and campaigns determined to expose the truth and to fight for a better society will continue to resist censorship - whether by the ASA or by unworkable libel laws. Check out the 'McSpotlight' website or look out for leafletting outside a McStore near you...

Helen Steel & Dave Morris
McLibel Defendants

Thank you for showing some of the advertisments that we have produced highlighting the animal suffering behind much of the food sold at McDonald's. The McLibel trial established the truth of many of the accusations made against McDonald's.

Your newspaper may be the only place where people can see the advertisements. The pre-emptive strike by the Committee For Advertising Practice means that the posters may never be shown in the UK. In preventing us from putting our anti-cruelty message across, the committee is demonstrating that it is more concerned about the interests of its big business clients than it is in free speech.

Justine Lindley
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.



16th September 1999

McDonald's is under attack from both animal activists and French farmers. Can shock PR tactics harm one of the world's biggest brands?

The image is enough to make even the most hardened burger lover shudder. A skinned cow, blood dripping down the side of its face, in an abbattoir. The caption 'Do you want fries with that?' makes the ad's target immediately obvious.....

Accused of treating animals badly, damaging the environment and underpaying its workers, it seems McDonald's can do no right. The problem is a worldwide one: internet sites such as McSpotlight (which carries a full transcript of the McLibel trial) have whipped up localised attacks into something approaching a global backlash.

'It has got to a stage where people seem willing to believe whatever they hear about it - from funding the IRA to destroying the ozone layer' says a former McDonald's account director.

So just how did McDonald's end up as public enemy number one?


McDonald's took a serious wrong turn in bringing the McLibel trial against two green campaigners circulating anti-McDonald's leaflets in the UK. This not only brought many issues about its corporate behaviour into the public eye for the first time, it also had the effect of making it look paranoid and power crazy.

One reason cited by McSpotlight for attacking the compnay is because 'it takes itself far too seriously'.

Although the company won the McLibel case, the judge upheld that McDonald's was guilty of paying low wages to its workers and of cruelty in the rearing of some of its animals, and criticised the way children were deliberately targetted by the ads.

As a result it has been much easier for groups such as Peta to target the company. 'We are attacking McDonald's because we can - its backed up by the McLibel verdict' points out Bruce Frederich, Peta's vegetarian campaign co-ordinator.

But is McDonald's so much worse than any other fast food chain? Peta says that as a high-profile corporation, McDonald's needs to set an example. 'All the practices we are attacking are industry-wide' admits Friedrich. 'But we hoped that as an industry giant they could afford to make improvements which would impact on other fast food chains.'

No matter what McDonald's does, it will always be a bad guy in the eyes of pressure groups which don't like multinational capitalism, particularly when its well marketed.

The McSpotlight site sums it up: 'They are a symbol of all multinationals who are relentlessly pursuing profits at the expense of anything that stands in their way.'

So far McDonald's only response to Peta has been to insist that it does use humane slaughtering methods.

But last week, when McDonald's marketers gathered in Chicago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of UK business, you can bet that those ads were on the agenda.

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