McLibel Support Campaign, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK
Internet info at:
Tel/Fax +44-(0)171 713 1269
PRESS RELEASE 18th July 1997


An analysis of the outcome and the Judgement of the McLibel trial.

McDonald's Corporation abandons its legal attempts to halt the public dissemination of "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets, and fails to get any award of costs (despite spending an estimated 10 million pounds)

Judge finds it to be a fact that McDonald's 'exploit children' through their advertising strategy, that McDonald's promotion of its food as nutritious is a deceptive 'pretence', that McDonald's is 'culpably responsible' for cruelty to animals, and that McDonald's pays 'low wages' to its workers and is anti-union.

MP's Early Day Motions of 18th July call for sanctions against McDonald's, and an end to multinationals' right to sue for libel.

Judge finds that McDonald's published unjustified, defamatory statements about the Defendants in an attempt to discredit them, but says this was permissible in law.

The Defendants stance in fighting the case has been totally vindicated; evidence in the trial has backed up all the criticisms made of McDonald's over the promotion of unhealthy food, and exploitation of people, animals and the environment. 500,000 leaflets handed out in UK and around the world following the verdict. The campaign has become unstoppable.

Plans are now underway to appeal against legal aspects of the verdict and the parts of the judgment which went against the Defendants, to sue McDonald's hired agents for damages, and to take the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights.


JULY 17th FINAL DEADLINE PASSES - McDonald's Abandon Legal Efforts Thursday July 17th, the four week deadline set by Mr Justice Bell for any final legal applications by the parties in the action, passed without McDonald's making any application for an injunction or costs. The Corporation has thereby conceded a huge victory to campaigners by effectively abandoning its legal attempts to halt the public dissemination of 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflets, and has failed to get any award of costs (despite spending an estimated 10 million pounds).

McDONALD'S SLAMMED IN PARLIAMENT - Jeremy Corbyn MP has sponsored two Early Day Motions which were put before Parliament on Friday 18th July. They refer to Mr Justice Bell's findings in the McLibel Trial and slam the McDonald's Corporation over its 'deceptive and exploitative business practices', calling for 'effective sanctions' and 'appropriate compensation' to be paid by the company. They further condemn 'unfair and oppressive libel laws' and call for 'urgent reform to safeguard public rights'. (Text of EDMs attached.)

McLIBEL JUDGE CONDEMNS McDONALDS' CORE BUSINESS PRACTICES On June 19th Mr Justice Bell, in his personal verdict in the McLibel Trial, ruled that substantial and significant parts of the London Greenpeace Factsheet criticising the company have been proved to be true by the evidence brought by the McLibel Defendants, Helen Steel & Dave Morris. Of the other parts of the Judgment, McDonald's won on the basis of controversial legal and semantic interpretations of the meaning of the What's Wrong With McDonald's? factsheet. These mainly regarded McDonald's claim that the factsheet meant that the company itself directly caused rainforest destruction and hunger in the third world (ignoring the factsheet's criticisms of multinationals and the food industry in general), and that people had a very real risk of cancer, heart disease and food poisoning from eating the company's food, even though the factsheet did not say this. The judge astonishingly also ruled that all the comment (bar one phrase) in the Factsheet would be treated as statements of fact which had to be proven by primary sources of evidence.

However, the company must be devastated that, despite all the disparity and unfairness, the Judge still found as a fact that McDonald's "exploit children" through their advertising, that they are "culpably responsible" for cruelty to animals, and that the company is anti-Union and pays such low wages that it helps to depress the already low wages in the catering industry even further. The Judge also found that McDonald's food was "high in fat and saturated fat and animal products and sodium" and that "advertisements, promotions and booklets have pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which McDonald's food ..... did not match" (ie. that the food is not nutritious and that they are therefore deceiving the public when they promote it as such). (See Verdict & Evidence bulletin attached.)

JUDGE FINDS McDONALD'S ISSUED DEFAMATORY AND 'UNJUSTIFIED' STATEMENTS TO DISCREDIT THE DEFENDANTS - but rules the company had the right to self-defence! Pre-trial publication by McDonald's of 300,000 leaflets and press releases attacking criticisms of the Corporation as 'lies' had sparked a counterclaim by the Defendants for libel. McDonald's spokesperson in the case, Mike Love, (UK Head of Communications and a former aide to Margaret Thatcher) had even lied to MPs George Galloway and Ken Livingstone about the case. The company was unable to bring a single piece of evidence to substantiate its defamatory assertions that the Defendants had deliberately circulated false information.

In fact, the judge found that McDonald's leaflets were 'defamatory', 'unjustified', contained allegations which McDonald's knew to be untrue and that 'part of the motive....was to discredit the defendants'. But, astonishingly, he ruled that this was legally permissible as McDonald's had a right of self-defence to protect itself since the company was under 'attack' from Helen and Dave! He ignored Defence submissions that if any legal right to self-defence existed, it should not apply to such a huge company but instead to members of the public raising valid concerns about Corporate domination of people's lives, communities and the environment.

SANCTIONS - The McLibel Support Campaign believes in the public's right of self-defence, and is now calling for sanctions to be implemented against the McDonald's Corporation for its exploitation and oppression of children, customers, workers and animals. In the light of the verdict, many other public bodies are demanding action:

(1) The National Food Alliance called, on July 17th, for a ban on food advertising targeting children (NFA - Jeanette 0171 628 2442).

(2) The Farm Animal Welfare Network is demanding immediate legislative action to end the cruel practices identified by the trial judge (FAWN - Clare 01484 688650).

(3) Trade Unions and labour activists are stepping up their recruitment drive in the catering industry and their campaign for a guaranteed minimum wage (TGWU - Oliver 0181 809 4977).

(4) Local residents' associations are broadening their objections to new McDonald's stores to include concerns regarding the targeting of local children and the lowering of local wage levels (eg. NOMAC, North London - David 0181 347 9857).

DAMAGES - The Judge awarded 60,000 pounds damages to be paid by the Defendants, only half of what McDonald's had asked for, due to the number of important points the Corporation had lost. In fact, the sum has generally been considered a derisory award. Nonetheless, the Defendants cannot afford to pay and, more importantly, believe that McDonald's doesn't deserve a penny and that it is McDonald's who must be forced to pay compensation to those they have exploited.

CAMPAIGN CONTINUES TO GROW - On the day of the verdict, supporters of the McLibel Defendants held a picket outside the court. On leaving the court, the Defendants joined in distributing "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets. They then took part in a triumphant and packed-out press conference, chaired by Michael Mansfield QC (who believes McLibel was the 'trial of the century') and attended by Defence witnesses including Charles Secrett (Executive Director of Friends of the Earth) and Fran Tiller (former private investigator hired by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace).

On Saturday 21st June, campaigners held an International VICTORY DAY OF ACTION and leafleted outside McDonald's stores around the world (including Australia, Poland, USA, Canada, Malta, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand) to demonstrate McDonald's failure to silence its critics. Over 500 of the company's 750 UK stores were leafleted in a display of solidarity with the McLibel Defendants and show of conviction that all the criticisms in the 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflets have been shown to be true. Two million of these leaflets had already been handed out in the UK since the case was brought. It has become probably the most famous and widely distributed protest leaflet in history. [Note: the original 1986 factsheet was out of print before McDonald's served writs on the Defendants in 1990]. As the Defendants were denied a jury trial, the public are in effect the wider jury and campaigners are committed to continuing to provide the public with the facts they need to judge for themselves. (The Corporation, after all, spends $2 billion every year on its global advertising and propaganda.) A week of action against the company will also take place between Oct 11-18th, around Oct 16th UN World Food Day / World Anti-McDonald's Day.

PR DISASTER - CORPORATION BURIES ITS HEAD The case has been described by the media as the biggest Corporate PR disaster in history. The McDonald's Corporation (based in Oak Brook, Illinois) is refusing to comment on the verdict, falsely claiming that it is a "UK issue". This is despite the fact that they were the first and leading Plaintiff in the McLibel action! They called top US executives into the witness box to give evidence and twice flew over other executives during the trial for secret settlement meetings with Helen and Dave. The Corporation obviously knows the damaging nature of the findings made against them and in the evidence as a whole throughout the trial. Their refusal to comment is clearly an admission of a humiliating defeat. It is a damage limitation exercise. As a 1995 confidential internal memo leaked from McDonald's Australia had stated: "Contain it as a UK issue". "We could worsen the controversy by adding our opinion". "We want to keep it at arms length - not become guilty by association".

DEFENDANTS ELATED - The Defendants responded to the end of the trial: "We're elated at what we and campaigners have been able to achieve. This case was a clear attempt by McDonald's to use the English libel laws to silence their critics. By standing up to the company's bullying, we turned the tables on McDonald's and the company found that all its dirty laundry was aired in public during the trial, exposing the truth behind its glossy image. The hearings were transformed into what may have been the first ever public tribunal on the business practices and effects of a multinational Corporation."

"All the legal cards were stacked against us - oppressive, complex and unfair libel laws favouring Plaintiffs, no Legal Aid, huge imbalance of resources (a $30 billion-a-year corporation against our combined annual income of less than 7,500 pounds), and the outrageous denial of a jury trial. Despite all of this, we won significant and substantial parts of the Judgment relating to McDonald's core business practices. And leaflets continue to be handed out in ever greater numbers. As far as we're concerned, it's a complete victory for campaigners and the public's right to criticise rich and powerful multinational corporations which dominate our lives and communities."

McDONALD'S US PRESIDENT REMOVED FROM OFFICE Ed Rensi, the Corporation's Chief Executive Officer, was removed from office at the beginning of July along with his management team after a disastrous year for the company, including stagnating US sales, mutinous franchisees and promotional flops.

LEGAL AND OTHER CONTROVERSIES SET TO CONTINUE The Defendants will be lodging an appeal against the parts of the Judge's verdict which went against them and over some of the disturbing legal aspects of the case. They are also preparing a 'third party action' against the three McDonald's spies who testified they had distributed the London Greenpeace factsheet whilst infiltrating London Greenpeace in 1990. The aim is for the agents to be forced to pay an appropriate contribution towards the 60,000 pounds damages. Following the appeal, the Defendants intend to take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the UK's unfair and oppressive libel laws - challenging the denial of Legal Aid and the right to a jury trial, and laws stacked in favour of Plaintiffs. They will argue that multinational corporations should no longer be allowed to sue for libel.

Ex-workers demand money owed by company - During their closing speeches, McDonald's admitted that due to their non-payment of statutory overtime rates (applicable up to 1992) some employees were illegally underpaid. Mr Justice Bell estimated that one Defence witness, Siamak Alimi, was owed 175 pounds. After writing to the company, Mr Alimi has received a letter from McDonald's promising payment, and will be taking further action if he does not receive his due plus compensation and an apology. Other former workers in a similar position are urged to do the same.

Current workers encouraged to get organised - During the Victory Day of Action on June 21st, hundreds of McDonald's workers were handed "Do You Work For McDonald's?" leaflets urging them to stand up for their rights. In the light of the judge's findings about low pay and the anti-union attitude of the company, staff are being encouraged to contact the McLibel Support Campaign, join Trade Unions (currently recruiting in the industry), organise themselves and speak out. There is now a well used 'Workers Debating Room' on the McSpotlight Internet site. October 12th will again see a global day of action and pickets in solidarity with McDonald's workers.

Kids Against McDonald's Network - thousands of special "What's Wrong With Ronald McDonald?" leaflets were handed out to kids on June 21st. Following the judge's finding that McDonald's 'exploits children' it is vital that children receive alternative information to counter that put out by the company. We support children getting together and distributing leaflets to their friends and others to resist McDonald's influence. They are invited to join the Kids Against McDonald's Network.

Books and Documentaries - The book "McLibel: Burger Culture On Trial" by John Vidal (part written by the Defendants) is to be updated to include the verdict and post-trial issues, and to be republished in paperback by Macmillian in the Autumn. The exclusive documentary "McLibel: Two World's Collide" is now being completed and will be available soon for broadcast worldwide. It will also be available on video. Full details from One Off Productions (+44 (0)171 681 0832 or

Reclaiming our World - Multinationals and governments dominate our lives and our planet, resulting everywhere in the exploitation and oppression of people, animals and the environment. And on top of this we are expected to put up with their propaganda! We call on people to get together, talk about these important issues and to fight back. Together ordinary people can reclaim our world, currently based on the greed and power of a minority, and create a society based on strong and free communities, the sharing of precious resources and respect for all life.

- ENDS -