On this day in history : 19th June 1997 – Fast-food chain McDonald’s wins a two-year libel case in London against two environmental campaigners; it is known as the ‘McLibel Case’….
McDonald’s brought the case against Helen Steel and David Morris, who became known as the ‘McLibel Two’….
A leaflet had been published claiming that the Company had caused environmental damage, with allegations it was responsible for the destruction of rainforests and causing starvation in the Third World…. It was alleged McDonald’s had treated animals cruelly, exploited workers and served unhealthy food….
Whilst a win for McDonald’s it was in reality a partial victory; Judge Mr. Justice Bell decided that the fast-food chain had treated animals with cruelty and its low paid workers had kept wages down across the catering trade…. He also ruled that it was true that McDonald’s targeted its advertising at children who pressurised their parents into taking them to the restaurants….
Unemployed activists Steel and Morris were ordered to pay £60K in damages…. They had represented themselves in the 314 day trial – one of the longest, if not the longest trial in British legal history…. The pair complained that they had not been able to claim legal aid, as it was not available for libel cases….
In March 1999 the damages were reduced from £60K to £40K by the Court of Appeal…. McDonald’s claimed it had sued in order to protect its reputation….the lawsuit cost it £10M….