1st May, 1996

  • McSpotlight Press Release

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    Paul Preston, McDonald's UK President and Chief Executive*, is returning to the witness box for further cross-examination by the McLibel Two (Helen Steel & Dave Morris). Preston will be in the stand on Tues 7th, Thurs 9th, & Fri 10th May.

    Mr Preston started his evidence in the first week of the McLibel Trial (link to the Case) in June 1994 (see extracts from his earlier testimony below) but cross-examination was postponed before its completion, at McDonald's request.

    On his return to the witness box, Mr Preston will be questioned by Steel & Morris about the company's record on food safety, nutrition, the environment, animal welfare, workers rights and advertising to children. He will also be quizzed about why the company brought the libel action against the two and why, on the eve of trial, McDonald's printed 300,000 leaflets - which were then made available nationwide in their stores - calling their critics liars. The leaflets, and company press releases in a similar vein, resulted in the Defendants launching a counterclaim for libel against McDonald's.

    * Mr Preston is also Senior Vice President of the McDonald's Corporation.


    On or around 16th May, the McLibel Trial will have been in court for 250 days. The trial began in June 1994 and is scheduled to continue until the end of 1996. It is already the longest civil case in British history. The previous longest libel trial lasted 101 days, and the previous longest civil case 198 days.

    The main reason that the case is taking so long is because McDonald's is alleging that every criticism in the Factsheet is libellous - this makes the case very wide-ranging and has resulted in 180 witnesses being called. Those criticisms are common sense views on matters of great public interest. Often, McDonald's is forcing Steel & Morris to prove the obvious - for example, that much of its packaging ends up as litter, that diet is linked to ill-health, and that McDonald's pays low wages to its crew members.


  • Incredibly, Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) claimed that the character Ronald McDonald is intended not to "sell food" to children, but to promote the "McDonald's experience". But an extract from the corporation's official and confidential 'Operations Manual' was read out: "Ronald loves McDonald's and McDonald's food. And so do children, because they love Ronald. Remember, children exert a phenomenal influence when it comes to restaurant selection. This means you should do everything you can to appeal to children's love for Ronald and McDonald's." It was revealed in court that Geoffrey Guiliano, a Ronald McDonald actor in the 1980's, had quit and publicly apologised, stating "I brainwashed youngsters into doing wrong. I want to say sorry to children everywhere for selling out to concerns who make millions by murdering animals".

  • Paul Preston said that if one million customers each bought a soft drink, he would not expect more than 150 cups to end up as litter. Photographs were then put to him, showing 27 pieces of McDonald's litter in one stretch of pavement alone (at the time the company had over 500 stores in the UK and served a million customers each day).

  • Paul Preston said he did not consider the 1994 starting wage of 3.10 pounds an hour for crew members to be low pay, however, when asked, he refused to reveal his own salary. When asked why the company couldn't pay higher wages to crew members out of the $1 billion profits it made last year, he claimed that "people are paid a wage for the job they do", even though he had earlier agreed that crew members worked hard and their job was more physically demanding than his own. When asked if the company could use its $1 billion advertising budget to pay higher wages, he stated that without advertising the company would have "no business".


    1. The McLibel Trial is a mammoth legal battle between the $26 billion a year McDonald's Corporation and two supporters of London Greenpeace - Helen Steel (30) and Dave Morris (42) - who between them have an annual income of less than 7,000 pounds. McDonald's are suing Steel & Morris for libel over a factsheet produced by London Greenpeace, entitled "What's Wrong With McDonald's", which McDonald's allege they distributed in 1989/90.

    2. The Trial began on 28th June 1994 and became the longest civil case in British history in December 1995. A total of approximately 180 witnesses from the UK and around the world are giving evidence in court about the effects of the company's operations on the environment, on human health, on millions of farmed animals, on the Third World, and on McDonald's' own staff (The Issues). They include environmental and nutritional experts, trade unionists, animal welfare experts, McDonald's employees, top executives, and four infiltrators employed by McDonald's. The Trial is set to run until the end of 1996.

    3. Steel & Morris were denied their right to a jury trial and, with no right to Legal Aid, are forced to conduct their own defence against McDonald's team of top libel lawyers.

    4. After McDonald's issued leaflets nationwide calling their critics liars, the Defendants took out a counterclaim for libel against McDonald's which is running concurrently with McDonald's libel action.

    5. At the time of the first anniversary of the Trial (June 1995), it was widely reported that McDonald's had initiated secret settlement negotiations with Steel & Morris. They twice flew members of their US Board of Directors to London to meet with the Defendants to seek ways of ending the case. McDonald's are clearly very worried about the way the case is going for them and the bad publicity they are receiving.

    6. It's clear that McDonald's aim of suppressing the "What's Wrong With McDonald's" leaflet has totally backfired. Over 1.5 million leaflets have been handed out to the public in the UK alone since the action was started and thousands of people have pledged to continue circulating the leaflets whatever the verdict. Protests and campaigns against McDonald's continue in over 24 countries. And now there is an internet site called 'McSpotlight', an on-line library and campaigning tool, which makes available across the globe 1,800 separate files containing everything that McDonald's don't want the public to know ( McSpotlight was accessed over a million times in its first month.

  • McSpotlight Press Release

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