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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 11:23 GMT


Greens sink teeth back into McDonald's

McDonald's faces another expensive court battle

Britain's longest running libel case returns to the courts on Tuesday when two green campaigners begin their appeal against a ruling that they libelled the McDonald's fast food chain.

Helen Steel and Dave Morris were ordered in June1997 to pay 60,000 to the burger giant after they distributed a leaflet called What's Wrong with McDonalds.

[ image: The leaflet that libelled the burger chain]
The leaflet that libelled the burger chain
A judge ruled some of the allegations were libellous. The pair are now arguing that the use of libel laws by multinationals is a form of censorship.

Former postman Mr Morris, 44, and former gardener Ms Steel, 33, will also argue that the judgment should have been in their favour and that in order to protect the public's right to scrutinise and criticise companies, multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel.

The case will be heard by Lords Justices Pill, May and Keene.

Longest trial

The original trial lasted 314 days, spread over two-and-a-half years, and cost McDonald's 10m.

The company has no hope of recovering any of the damages or costs from the two campaigners - who are described as "unwaged" - and now faces an appeal hearing which could last up to three months.

The leaflet in question is still in circulation and claims McDonald's poisoned its customers and exploited Third World countries.

But Mr Justice Bell found that the leaflet was accurate in accusing McDonald's of paying low wages to its workers, being responsible for cruelty to some of the animals used in its food products and exploiting children in its advertising campaigns.

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