McDonald’s “wins” McLibel case ––but is “culpably” cruel to animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:

LONDON – – Justice
Roger Bell technically found for
McDonald’s on June 19, ending
the second longest trial in British
history, but the $98,000 defamation
award against penniless defendants
Dave Morris, 43, and Helen
Steel, 31, cost the fast food firm
$16 million to win, enabled Morris
and Steel to distribute millions of
copies of the 1990 London
Greenpeace pamphlet Whats
Wrong With McDonald’s? that
started it all, and established that
several of their many allegations
against McDonald’s were true.

Notably, Bell ruled,
McDonald’s is “culpably responsible”
for “cruel practice” pertaining
to factory-farmed chickens and
pigs, including the slaughter of
chickens by slashing their throats
while conscious.
The so-called McLibel
case could not have been won by
McDonald’s under U.S. law,
which recognizes statements of
opinion as protected by the First
Amendment––but because poultry
isn’t covered by the 1959 Humane
Slaughter Act and because routine
agricultural practices are exempted
from anti-cruelty laws in 30 of the
50 states, U.S. courts have never
had the opportunity to rule on similar
cruelty issues.
Despite near unanimous
agreement by commentators that
McDonald’s lost just by pressing
the case, the British-based John
Lewis department store chain on
May 21 filed a parallel case against
the National Anti-Hunt Campaign
for distributing a leaflet that calls
the firm “wildlife killers,” because
it keeps a 3,000-acre birdshooting
estate for the use of executives.
Two weeks later, feedlot
owner Paul Engler of Amarillo,
Texas, and a dozen Texas ranchers
sued TV talk show host Oprah
Winfrey for remarks she made
about “mad cow disease” during an
interview with Humane Society of
the U.S. livestock expert Howard
Lyman, a former beef rancher who
now advocates vegetarianism. The
case is seen as the first major test
of the “food libel” laws passed by
14 states, largely in response to
anti-meat campaigns.
The verdict in another
British “food libel” case went
against Colchester Oyster Fisheries
on June 12, with a ruling that
hygiene consultant Christoper
Purslow was protected by qualified
privilege in authoring a 1992 investigative
report that confused two
types of oyster and thus blamed the
wrong kind for an outbreak of food

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