I am a principled activist who has been determined to fight injustice for many years. The 1985 London Greenpeace Factsheet is an excellent, well-researched leaflet. Its outrageous that McDonald's should try to suppress alternative points of view. Despite the enormous barriers to defending a libel case, I decided to stand up for free speech.
Last week I was informed that I had to do a personal witness statement. Neither me or Helen were aware that we had to do this. I've no idea what I'm expected to say. What follows is a bit of background about myself, about my involvement with London Greepeace and the Anti-McDonald's campaign, what I was doing at the time of the alleged 'libel', how I felt about getting a writ, and why I have been determined to defend the Factsheet's criticisms of McDonald's. I am 39 years old and I've always lived in London. On leaving school I spent a couple of years doing full time voluntary work among people with phyisical and mental disabilities. I then worked as a postman for many years, being an active trade unionist and elected Branch Secretary. For the last 10 years I have engaged in community work in Tottenham, most of the time involved in the local Unwaged Unemployed Centre where I am presently Secretary. I have a 4 year old son.
There were about 20 people actively associated with the loosely-knit group around this time. I can't remember the name of the bloke who offered to write a Factsheet - he left the group soon after he completed it. I know he spent quite some time researching and writing it,. but he took all his background information with him when he left. I've not seen him since. I never helped write or print it.
The Factsheet was for specific enquiries rather than mass distribution. Any McDonald's enquiries, and usually other matters too, were dealt with by an informal 'sub-group' of the collective, which I wasn't involved with. We had a special Anti McDonald's tray for these letters. Otherwise, in general enquiries we put the latest version of the A5 leaflet in for the most part. Often if we had a lot of post, dozens of 'general enquiry kits' would be made up with a mixture of group leaflets enclosed. A short hand-written note was added to this - we felt that all personal enquiries should get a personal response, rather than just a Standard Letter. It was completely 'ad-hoc', depending on who was around and was interested, about who did the kits or which leaflets were put in, who did the personal replies etc. The group has always worked on trust and voluntary commitment rather than routines and official roles.In its way, it has been quite an effective group, not trying to become a large, bureaucratic or wealthy organisation, but encouraging other people to organise themselves and to speak for themselves about what concerns them, rather than looking to politicians and so on.
In August 1989 my 3 month old son and his mother suffered an accident and I spent the next three and a half weeks in the children's ward of the local hospital and then the next 6 months caring for them both virtually all the time. During that time I only attended a handful of events special to me, mainly to do with work as Secretary of the local Unwaged Centre and involvement in the growing anti-poll tax movement. I virtually dropped out of the London Greenpeace, attending only one or two meetings to 'keep my oar in' so to speak. I can't remember being involved in any anti-McDonalds activities - I only recall attending one meeting at this time. This was the one about the group's future. I distinctly remember arguing for the group to concentrate on on other areas of campaigning rather than McDonalds which had taken up a lot of energy for the previous few years.
On reading and rereading the Factsheet I was once again impressed by how well written, incisive and down-to-earth it was. In fact in nearly 20 years of involvement in various communty-based campaigning groups, I can honestly say I've rarely seen such a good all-round leaflet.
In addition, I feel very deeply about the exploitation of non-unionised workers, and also about hunger and ecological destruction in our world.
I couldn't believe the nerve of a multinational asking me to apologise to them?! It is they who should apologise to the public for what they do. I decided I would be proud to have the opportunity to defend the Factsheet in public. Despite being penniless and denied legal aid, despite the hugely complex and unfair libel laws, despite having to research the information all over again by and large, despite domestic disruption caused by the case and despite personal exhaustion due to the workload, pressures of deadlines and of trying to fathom out what we're being expected to do at every stage of the case, despite having to stand up as ordinary members of the public in court and face barristers from a top city law firm, and despite not having had a decent holiday for years, I'm glad I made that decision.
It disgusts me that an organisation can spend billions on its own idiotic propaganda in order to boost its own massive profits, and then try to prevent members of the public from circulating an alternative view, not for their personal gain but out of genuine concern for all people, animals and our planet.
I believe that out of court settlements are often used by companies to avoid being found guilty of liability.
My experience is that all companies, including McDonald's, are motivated predominantly by profits and power, and that this is the major cause of the world's ecological and social problems.
I have been active around ecological concerns for 20 years, and what were then thought marginal or cranky points of view are now accepted by virtually all thinking people and even grudgingly admitted by companies and governments. This has been due to the untiring efforts of ecologists and grass-roots activity and criticism, and has been so despite opposition and obstruction by vested interests.
I believe that those motivated by profit and power, including McDonald's, have become fearful of such criticism and public protest and concern, and have been forced to fabricate 'policies' and a 'green' image, in order to present a front to the public in order to appease people. The damaging practices continue with some superficial tinkering with business-as-usual as long as their profits and status remain unaffected.
It wasn't, as far as I remember, handed out at demonstrations to the public due to the expense and unsuitability for a lay reader. It was kept for special enquiries. Various A5 leaflets were produced over the years with different texts and designs.
Regarding the Endsleigh St meetings, some which were advertised fully were well attended (20-40), others were more like internal discussions and only those who'd been associated with the group were present (plus sometimes an invited speaker).
I was aware at the time that 'Veggies' of Nottingham had a libel writ from McDonald's for reprinting the Factsheet, and that one or two sections were identified as 'objectionable' by McDonald's. We had continuous contact with Veggies throughout this situation and were aware that McDonald's found acceptable a slightly amended version, offered by Veggies. Veggies have continued to circulate their amended version of the London Greenpeace Factsheet (95% the same as the one subject to the present case), in bulk world-wide to this day.
|date signed:||July 28th, 1993|
transcripts of court appearances: