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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 24/09/00
McLibel Support Campaign / London Greenpeace
5 Caledonian Rd, London, N1 9DX, UK.
Tel/Fax +44-(0)171 713 1269
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Update, September 2000 - issued prior to World Anti-McDonald's day


a. 16th Annual World Anti-McDonald's Day, October 16th [United Nations World Food Day]

b. Communities Fight Back

c. McLibel Legal Update - including Application To European Court, and Metropolitan Police Successfully Sued

d. Exposing The McExploitation Of Workers

e. Challenging McPropaganda


The 16th annual Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day is approaching on Saturday October 16th [UN World Food Day] - a protest against the promotion of junk food, the unethical targeting of children, exploitation of workers, animal cruelty, damage to the environment and the global domination of corporations over our lives. Last year there were hundreds of local protests on or around Oct 16th all over the world - we heard of 425 protests and pickets in 345 towns in 23 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA. On Friday 15th Oct there was also a day of action vs McDonald's all over France called by the farmers of Confederation Paysanne against economic globalisation. This followed contacts with us in London about the global day of action. As part of the global protests, there were also some events on Oct 12th - an annual day of solidarity with McDonald's workers. This stems from the death by electrocution at work of crew member Mark Hopkins, Manchester UK on Oct 12th 1992.

In the UK we heard about protests outside stores in: Rotherham, Doncaster, London, Nottingham, Oxford, Aberdeen, Newport, Rochdale, Depford, St Albans, Waterlooville, Ilford, Nottingham, Bracknell, Wolverhampton, Southend on Sea, Gloucester, Burton on Trent, Cambridge, Chichester, Bognor Regis, Matlock, Buxton, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Halifax, Hereford, Brighton, Birmingham, Southampton. Over 3 million leaflets have now been handed out in the UK alone since 1990 (when the McDonald's Corporation served libel writs aiming to suppress the London Greenpeace leafletting campaign) and it is now distributed worldwide.

Please download and copy the 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflet. If you are unable to do this you may be able to buy in bulk from Veggies: 0115 9585 666,

As well as the mass distribution of leaflets by thousands of local activists, the global campaign against McDonald's has continued to grow this year - there have been:

  • millions more hits to the 'McSpotlight' website
  • many determined residents' campaigns against new stores [see below]
  • mass anti-McDonald's protests by french farmers - including the public destruction of a new McStore building - 30,000 supporters protested at the trial of those accused
  • protests against McDonald's sponsorship of this year's Olympic Games (the so-called 'green olympics' being held in Australia) due to the corporation's mass use of refridgeration chemicals linked to global warming
  • a scandal as a Hong Kong-based campaign exposes extreme labour exploitation (including child labour) in China during the production of McDonald's toys [see below]
  • a wave of complaints calling for a ban on their advertising to children [see below]
  • protests throughout the US and elsewhere focusing on the cruelty suffered by chickens raised for McDonald's products
  • general continuing bad publicity for the Corporation as a result of the McLibel case.


All over the UK, almost every time the global hamburger corporation plans to open a new store, local residents saturate planning committees with objections, and organise angry public meetings and protests. In many instances they have succeeded in getting planning permission refused, or forced McDonald's to abandon their plans.

In June 2000, after an incredible and successful 552-day continuous residents' occupation of a site of a planned new store in Hinchley Wood, near Kingston, South London, McDonald's finally admitted defeat and pulled out.

Hinchley Wood 'Residents Against McDonald's' [RAM] exposed oppressive local planning laws in which companies can steamroller over the wishes of communities, and councils allow only very narrow grounds for objection (eg. increased traffic problems, design etc) which fail to address communities' concerns over the quality of their lives and environment. Hence profiteering business chains continue to invade neighbourhoods, often replacing green spaces and local facilities with their standardised, mediocre products, backed up by marketing hype.

In particular, objections to the transformations of local pubs into fast food stores are automatically dismissed as not a 'change of use'. As a consequence, the Hinchley Wood residents have been contacting other campaigners around the country to mount a campaign for the reform of such planning laws. The UK Government Department of Transport and the Regions have now announced a review of these laws. The Hinchley Wood residents decided to conduct their own review by contacting the planning departments of hundreds of local authorities about this problem. Their report [see] was released in April 2000. It summarises the numerous responses and concludes there is widespread concern including at the official level over this issue. The Hinchley Wood campaigners also analysed company statistics on the development of McDonald's stores throughout the UK which showed that their expansion increasingly relies on the development of new sites outside the usual High Street locations. Hence the threat to local community pubs is no coincidence.



Ten years to the day on which the McDonald's Corporation served libel writs on Helen Steel and Dave Morris (20th September 1990) the McLibel 2 lodged an application to take the U.K. Government to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Helen and Dave, the two defendants in the longest trial in English legal history, assert that the McLibel trial breached, in particular, Article 6 [right to a fair trial] and Article 10 [right to freedom of expression] of the Human Rights Convention, and that English libel laws are incompatible with the convention.

This follows the refusal, in April 2000, of the House of Lords to allow them leave for a full appeal to be heard there after a controversial trial and appeal resulting in a 'mixed verdict' in which damning rulings were made against McDonalds' core business practices - yet the defendants were ordered to pay the company damages. [Background information on the McLibel case is available on McSpotlight].

The McLibel 2 are seeking to defend the public's right to criticise companies whose business practices affect people's lives, health and the environment. They also seek an end to oppressive, unfair and archaic defamation laws and procedures in general, and in their case in particular.

The main arguments in Europe [which has a whole cover breaches of Articles 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14] will be:

  • Multinational corporations, should have no right to sue for libel as it is in the overriding public interest that they be subjected to unfettered scrutiny and criticism (as applies to governmental organisations), since they have huge power and influence.

  • If there is a right to sue, it should be a defence for a defendant to show 'reasonable belief' in the words complained of, or that the issues are of public importance.

  • The McLibel case was an abuse of legal process due to several factors - for example, the imbalance of financial and legal resources as between the two sides and the denial of a jury trial.

THE POLICE ARE SUCCESSFULLY SUED In July 2000 the Metropolitan Police, in order to avoid what they called 'a difficult and lengthy trial' brought against them by the McLibel 2, agreed to pay £10,000 to Helen and Dave, plus their legal costs, and most significantly 'to bring this settlement to the attention of the 3 Area Commanders of the Metropolitan Police Force and ask them to remind their officers of their responsibility not to disclose information on the Police National Computer to a third party.' Det. Sgt. Valentine also stated he 'regretted any distress of the claimants caused by the disclosure of their details' to a private investigator hired by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace.

The claim resulted from actions of police officers, including Special Branch officers, which came to light as a result of the McLibel trial. Police officers had passed private and in some cases false information about the McLibel 2 (and some other protestors), including their home addresses, to McDonald's and to private investigators hired by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace. During the trial Sid Nicholson, McDonald's Head of Security and a former Met Chief Superintendent, stated from the witness box that McDonald's security department were 'all ex-policemen' and if he ever wanted to know information about protestors he would go to his contacts in the police. This collusion between the police and a multinational corporation against members of the public exposes the political role of the police in ensuring the wheels of big business keep turning.


Following protests by trades unionists and other activists in Hong Kong over low pay in McDonald's 160 stores there, a report was commissioned by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee [HKCIC] - released in August 2000 - which investigated and exposed the reality of the conditions experienced in factories in Guangdong province in China where up to 100,000 workers produce toys for McDonald's worldwide. The report condemned scandalous exploitation - including outrageously low pay, long hours, no workers' rights, victimisation of strikers, and the use of child labour.

McDonald's had persistantly denied poor conditions and the use of child labour saying, as recently as three months ago, that its own auditing reports (October 1999 and May 2000) had found nothing wrong. Following the adverse publicity and protest generated by the HKCIC report McDonald's moved to cover up the issue by switching suppliers, leaving hundreds of workers sacked without paying wages or any compensation.


In October 1999 in the USA, People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) launched a nationwide billboard poster campaign attacking Ronald McDonald's as 'The US No 1 Serial Killer' (in response they said to the McLibel verdict), with pictures of slaughtered chickens and cows. When their UK branch publicised their intent to do the same in England they were told by the regulatory authorities that they would be banned. Last year PETA joined the international anti-McDonald's protests on October 16th.

Early this year, to expose the hypocrisy of the advertising industry, and in the light of the McLibel ruling that McDonald's exploit children, the McLibel Support Campaign called on the public to send in letters to the Independent Television Commission calling for a ban on all McDonald's advertising to children. In February 2000 the ITC reported that they had received 205 complaints about McDonald's advertising in that month alone - out of a total of 610 complaints about advertisements.

In solidarity, McLibel Support Campaign

Further details of the case, the campaign, or London Greenpeace from 'McSpotlight' - available on CD-Rom.
Also available: 'McLibel: Burger Culture On Trial' (Pan Books, Macmillian press, £5.99 - now out of print, but may be available in some bookshops)
and the superb documentary 'McLibel: Two Worlds Collide' (53 mins - from One Off Productions, 0171 692 4997)
To subscribe to the McLibel announcements email list: ‘subscribe mclibel [your-name]’. For discussion try: McSpotlight Debating Room  
contact details 
McLibel Support Campaign
5 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX, UK.
Tel/Fax: +44 (207) 713 1269
related links  
- press releases & statements
- press cuttings: McDonald's
- press cuttings: McLibel
- press cuttings: Campaigns
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- The McLibel Trial
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