By Sandra Barwick

20th Jun 1997; Daily Telegraph (UK)

McDonald's was awarded 60,000 libel damages yesterday against two penniless campaigners who defended themselves in the longest trial in English legal history.

But the judge also ruled that the fast-food chain exploits children in its advertising, is cruel to animals and that its restaurants pay low wages to British workers.

Mr Justice Bell, ruling in the High Court on McDonald's action against the activists who distributed pamphlets criticising the company, found that the campaigners had not proved the majority of their claims.

He found that David Morris, 43, a former postman, and Helen Steel, 31, a bar worker, had not established that McDonald's caused starvation in the Third World, destroyed rain forests, lied about recycling, poisoned customers or had bad conditions for workers.

But the two campaigners with London Greenpeace, which has no connection with Greenpeace International, had proved, after 313 days in court, that McDonald's was "culpably responsible" for cruelty to animals in their rearing and their slaughter, especially to chickens and some sows.

Mr Justice Bell found the allegations in the leaflet about mistreatment of animals, headed McTorture, "true in substance and in fact".

He also ruled that claims in the leaflet that McDonald's "exploit children by using them, as more susceptible subjects of advertising, to pressurise their parents into going into McDonald's is justified. It is true".

McDonald's spent an estimated 10 million on the action to clear their name in a case dubbed "McLibel".

Mr Morris and Miss Steel said the case was a victory for them. "Because we were denied a jury, the public is the jury in this case," Mr Morris said.

They are to argue in the European Court of Human Rights that they were denied a fair trial.

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