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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 24/09/03
CALL FOR ACTION on Thursday October 16th - Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day  
Update: September 2003

1. Call for action on Oct 16th - Anti-McDonald's day
2. Report of last year's protests, including by McDonald's workers
3. McLibel case legal update
4. What's Wrong With McDonald's? - updated text of leaflet for global distribution
Thursday October 16th 2003 will be the 19th annual Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day [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.

SO WHY NOT ORGANISE PICKETS AND PROTESTS IN YOUR TOWN ON THURS OCT 16th (OR ANY DAY THAT WEEK)? And please send us a report! Please copy the 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflet at: [or use latest text below, at end]

Millions of leaflets have now been handed out in over 27 languages worldwide since 1990 when the McDonald's Corporation took legal action against the McLibel 2 aiming to suppress the growing leafletting campaign. This surely demonstrates the determination of community activists to ensure that the public have the opportunity to see through the glossy marketing propaganda that big business continually forces upon us.

Despite its strenuous efforts, McDonald's is widely despised, and its 'reputation' - along with that of the food industry in general - continues to sink ever further. Last year the McDonald's Corporation even made a loss for the first time in its history!

As well as the mass distribution of leaflets by thousands of local activists around the world, especially on the World Anti-McDonald's Day, the global campaign against McDonald's has continued to grow. This includes protests by local communities, activists, and McDonald's own workers, as well as bad publicity as McDonald's becomes increasingly identified as a symbol of all that is wrong with the food industry, corporate globalisation and modern capitalism.


The 18th annual day of action was held on Wednesday, Oct 16th 2002. Last year we had reports of local protests on October 16th (and during that week) all around the globe, from Australia to Mexico, Russia to South Africa, Brazil, USA and throughout Eastern and Western Europe - including Ireland and the UK . This was mainly leafletting and pickets, but also included marches, distribution of free vegetarian food, in-store dumping of collected company litter, showings of the 'McLibel' documentary, public meetings, painted slogans on adverts and store fronts, and lock glueings.


The growing international network of McDonald's employees - the McDonald's Workers Resistance (MWR), established in 2000 - had called for McDonald's workers around the world to take joint action on the same day, October 16th. This was a brave call considering the global corporation's track record in suppressing any independent workers rights, activity or organisation - backed up with threats of sackings. Underground resistance networks like MWR appear to be one way to fight back.

On the day itself, according to reports received, action included: strikes in stores in Paris and Norfolk; a stoppage in Moscow; attempted strike at a store in New Zealand and London, England; a walkout in Nottingham; collective resignations in Glasgow; many acts of absenteeism, defiance and disruption by individuals and small groups of workers in many countries including the US, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Madrid and Germany. In addition there were solidarity actions by protestors in support of McDonald's workers in the North of Ireland, Germany, Australia, Scotland, Sweden, Serbia and England and especially in Italy (including a blockade in Milan).

If you would like to know more about MWR, please visit


Meanwhile, the McLibel case continues to generate bad publicity for McDonald's. Many damning legal rulings were made by the UK high court against the company in 1997 and 1999: exploiting children with their advertising strategy; deceiving consumers by claiming their food is nutritious; promoting food linked to a greater risk of heart disease; paying low wages; and being responsible for animal cruelty. But the defendants are arguing that, to protect the public's freedom of speech, corporations should not be allowed to bring such cases against protestors at all.

The McLibel case continues on its slow crawl (13 years!) through the legal system. On 6th July 2003 the McLibel 2 sent their latest submissions to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case now known as Steel and Morris vs UK. They submitted a 53 page document replying point by point to observations made to the Court by the UK government earlier this year about the McLibel case and UK defamation laws.

Helen and Dave are asserting 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. The Court has still to decide on the admissability of the case.

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 the McLibel case in particular. If they win, the UK government could be forced to amend or scrap some of these laws and procedures.

Whatever happens in Strasbourg, the McLibel campaign has already demonstrated that a determined and widespread campaign of grass roots defiance and non-cooperation can render oppressive laws unworkable. The continually growing opposition to McDonald's and all it stands for is a vindication of all the efforts of those around the world who have been exposing and challenging the corporation's business practices.

- McLibel Support Campaign, London England

McDonald's spend over $2 billion every year worldwide on advertising and promotions, trying to cultivate an image of being a 'caring' and 'green' company that is also a fun place to eat. Children are lured in - dragging their parents behind them - with the promise of toys and other gimmicks. But behind the smiling face of Ronald McDonald lies the reality: McDonald's only interest is money, making profits from whoever and whatever they can, just like all multinationals. The company's sales are now $40 billion a year. The continual worldwide expansion of fast food chains means more uniformity, less choice and the undermining of local communities.

McDonald's promote their food as 'nutritious', but the reality is that it is processed junk food - high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in fibre and vitamins. A diet of this type is linked with a greater risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases. Their food also contains many chemical additives, some of which may cause ill-health, and hyperactivity in children. Modern intensive farming and production methods are geared to maximising profits. As a result, the widespread use of unnatural practices and chemicals has also affected people's health (e.g. BSE and food poisoning).

Workers in the fast food industry are paid low wages. McDonald's do not pay overtime rates even when employees work very long hours. Pressure to keep profits high and wage costs low results in understaffing, so staff have to work harder and faster. As a consequence, accidents (particularly burns) are common. The majority of employees are people who have few job options and so have no alternative to being bossed around and exploited - and they're compelled to 'smile' too! Not surprisingly staff turnover at McDonald's is high, making it virtually impossible to unionise and fight for a better deal. This suits McDonald's who have always been opposed to workers' rights and Unions. The same is true for workers toiling in sweatshops in China to produce McDonald's 'happy meal' toys.

The demands made by multinationals for cheap food supplies result in the exploitation of agricultural workers throughout the world. Vast areas of land in poor countries are used for cash crops or for cattle ranching, or to grow grain to feed animals to be eaten in the West. This is at the expense of local food needs. McDonald's continually promote meat products, encouraging people to eat meat more often, which wastes more and more food resources. 7 million tons of grain fed to livestock produces only 1 million tons of meat and by-products. On a plant-based diet and with land shared fairly, almost every region could be self-sufficient in food.

Forests throughout the world - vital for all life - are being destroyed at an appalling rate by multinational companies. McDonald's have at last been forced to admit to using beef reared on ex-rainforest land, preventing its regeneration. Also, the use of farmland by multinationals and their suppliers forces local people to move on to other areas and cut down further trees. McDonald's are the world's largest user of beef. Methane emitted by cattle reared for the beef industry is a major contributor to the 'global warming' crisis. The heavy use of chemicals in modern agriculture destroys wildlife, plants and the soil.

Every year McDonald's use over a million tons of unnecessary plastic and paper packaging, the production of which requires environmentally-damaging chemicals and degradation of forests. Most of the packaging ends up littering our streets or polluting the land buried in landfill sites.

The menus of the burger chains are based on the torture and murder of millions of animals. Most are intensively farmed, with no access to fresh air and sunshine, and no freedom of movement. Their short lives are cruel and their deaths are barbaric - 'humane slaughter' is a myth. We have the choice to eat meat or not, but the billions of animals slaughtered for food each year have no choice at all.

Food is central to our everyday lives, yet we have virtually no control over its production and distribution. The way we eat, and even the way we think about food is being manipulated by these powerful institutions and their sophisticated marketing campaigns. But despite strenuous marketing efforts, McDonald's is widely despised, and its 'reputation' - along with that of the food industry in general - continues to sink ever further.

Every year on 16th October there is an annual World Day of Action against McDonald's and all they stand for - with pickets and demonstrations all over the world. Together we can fight back against the institutions which currently control our lives and our planet, and we can create a better society without exploitation or oppression. Workers can and do organise together to fight for their rights and dignity. People are increasingly aware of the need to think seriously about the food we and our children eat. Environmental and animal rights protests and campaigns are growing everywhere. People in poor countries are organising themselves to stand up to multinationals and banks which dominate the world's economy. Why not join in the struggle for a better world? Talk to friends and family, neighbours and workmates about these issues. Please copy and circulate this leaflet as widely as you can.  
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
- press cuttings: McLibel film
- press cuttings: related stuff
- The McLibel Trial
- witnesses statements, transcripts, evidence