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McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial [Paperback]

John Vidal
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Nov 1997
In 1990 McDonald's slapped writs on five London activists for allegedly libelling them in a leaflet entitled, "What's Wrong with McDonald's?" They successfully silenced three, but Dave Morris and Helen Steel refused to apologize. The "McLibel" trial covered issues from employment, advertising, recycling and litter, to nutrition, animal rights and deforestation. This book examines the "McLibel" trial, its impact, and the political and legal significance of the case.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (7 Nov 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330352377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330352376
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 858,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trial 30 Jan 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the story of David Morris and Karen Steel, defendants in the longest libel trial in British History. Guardian journalist John Vidal is obviously and rightly sympathetic to the McLibel 2 as he documents their Trial. His wry sense of humour, sharp observations and ability to cut through the legal b-ll sh-t to the issues make it a readable and important book.

McDonalds dont come across well - they smear, snoop and spy on Morris and Steel. Their libel action nothing more than an attempt to make an example of the pair to discourage any others. Their tenacious acceptance of the gauntlet thrown down by McDonalds ought to be an example to us all.

Vidal also includes a prescient chapter (written in 1997) looking at the forces of globalism and the resistance to it. He is a writer on top of his subject. Steel and Morris write a few pages on their experience. McDonalds, despite an invite to contribute, keep schtum. I suppose this is considered an old story now , but one that is definetely still relevant and Vidals book is well worth getting hold of.

One point - make sure you get the edition with the final judgement in it as some editions don't get that far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 2 July 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial
Well-written book which keeps you reading by inclusion of the additions about the difficulties faced by Helen Steel and David Morris when trying to organise their lives around their trial... it was almost impossible. The first major setback was when they were denied a jury. Lord Devlin famously said that a jury is 'the lamp that shows that freedom lives.'
McLibel is a must-read for anyone who cares about the diet of our children, the devastation of the rainforests, chemicals in farming, or JUSTICE. To discover more about how you can help today, go to the websight where you can see the whole story... but that doesn't compare to being able to dip into this wonderful book. George and the Dragon was nothing in comparison to this battle between two penniless, passionate campaigners and the McDonald Leviathan.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thought provoking stuff 4 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This book is a real insight into the way the 'mind' of large corporations works. Although the information can be quite dry at times, I'm sure anyone not familiar with the McLibel case will be astonished by what went on. Thoroughly recommended !
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McDonald's Can't Bully All of Us 5 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Detailed look at the trial which left McDonald's with egg on their faces and a rather large legal bill - all to suppress a group of far-left ecocentrics. You will never look at a McChiken Sandwich in quite the same light.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good 15 Mar 2002
By Tom Munro - Published on
The Mcdonalds Corporation has used the threat of litigation to protect both its logos and also its reputation. This is an example in which the threat of legal action came unstuck. Two British enviromentalists had handed out material which it was later found out defamed the McDonalds corporation. Defamation action was threatened unless the enviromentalists recanted. This they refused to do and McDonalds issued a writ suggesting that they had been libeled.
It was at this point that McDonalds made a serious legal error in making some allegations against the enviromentalists. This led to a counter suite for defamation which was run at the same time. The problem for McDonalds was that they had to lead evidence to prove their case. Normally in a defamation case it would be up to the defendant to do so. As the two enviromentalists were both broke they would not have been able to do so. However McDonalds by their tactical mistake forced themselves to provide evidence to back up their claims. The two enviromentalists were able to cross examine the various McDonalds witnesses to provide evidence for their claims.
As a result the case went on for so long that it became Britain's longest ever case. The two enviromentalists had a year to learn how to cross examine and were able to elicit some evidence that was unflattering McDonalds.
In these sorts of cases costs of litigation are nominally recoverable from the losing side. However as the two enviromentalists had no money any cost order against them was without value. This led to a incredibly long and expensive case which ended up bleeding McDonalds with the unfortunate side effect that the two enviromentalists were able to milk it for all it was worth to attack the reputation of McDonalds. From the point of view of the firm a total disaster... The decision to litigate had been a disaster.
The book is okay but leaden at times, the film that was released of the event is probably a bit more interesing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Pyrrhic Victory 6 Sep 2000
By Julian P Killingley - Published on
McLibel is an account of the longest trial in British legal history - McDonald's Restaurants v Morris & Steel. The story is in every way a David and Goliath story - two penniless lay people are pitted against the Dean of British libel lawyers backed by the limitless coffers of a major international company. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, both in terms of legal talent and legal obstacles, the defendants do a creditable job of holding their own.
This book offers an interesting British counterpoint to Harr's A Civil Action. Both books describe major legal struggles between the Haves and the Have-nots and in both cases the outcome represents less than a clear victory for either side. McLibel also offers an interesting critique of British libel law, the limitations on free speech in Britain, "ownership" of the law, manipulation of the legal system by the powerful, and the role of the judge.
It also offers Big Business a salutary lesson - not every apprent pushover is going to play dead the moment litigation is threatened. When it comes to counting the most costly legal mistakes ever, this case must rank somewhere near the top of the list. The case turned into a legal quagmire that McDonalds found it impossible to extricate itself from. Whatever consolation the company may have found in the verdict, this was a pyrrhic victory and an undoubted public relations disaster.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must Read RE Corporations & the Environment 19 Feb 1998
By Bucherwurm - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An important book regarding the power of corporations, and the abuse of the environment. We Americans are fortunate that we do not have England's libel laws where corporations like McDonalds do not hesitate to use the law to squelch free speech. This is a fascinating book that follows the longest civil trial in British history. The author is able to summarize the trial without getting bogged down in the mass of testimony that was presented. The book's downside is that the author makes lengthy asides to preach on environmental issues. I share his concerns, but I bought the book to read about the specific issue of the trial itself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Little People vs. Corporate Giant 18 Aug 2003
By A. Vegan - Published on
It all began with a pamphlet entitled "What's Wrong with McDonald's?" that led to the longest trial in British history.
The trial was a David vs. Goliath - five members of London Greenpeace against McDonalds.
Accused by McDonalds of libel, two activists held their ground and proceeded with the trial. The activists believed that McDonalds exploited children, depressed wages, leveled South and Central American rain forests and subjected its cattle and chicken to mass slaughters.
Without benefit of a lawyer or funds from legal aid, Helen Steel and Dave Morris acted as their own attorneys in facing McDonalds' legal teams. British libel law required that Steel and Morris prove the accuracy of virtually every statement made in the flyer.
Unfortunately, the judge found that Helen and Dave had not proved the allegations against McDonald's. But they had shown that McDonald's does exploit children with their advertising, falsely advertised their food as nutritious and are culpably responsible for cruelty to animals reared for their products. In the end, the two were ordered to pay but McDonald's dropped the claim and left with a very tarnished image.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "McProgress" is regressive 9 July 2000
By "honey_barbara" - Published on
This book really made me consider the notion of "progress" and the monstrous reality of rampant capitalist enterprise. It is always easy to point out maniacal campaigns for fiscal "rewards" of the world's multi-national companies and whinge in rather general ways. "McLibel" makes some general comments about globalisation, but uses the courageous courtcase involving Steel and Morris against McDonald's to illustrate these concerns. I feel that the London Greenpeace movement probably should have verified factual evidence BEFORE putting out a "fact sheet" that has taken five years to do this retrospectively. I have so much admiration for Steel and Morris and wish that it was possible to just phone them and thank them personally for their efforts and sacrifice of time, lifestyle and relationships. It is encouraging to read, after so much bad news presented by Vidal, that there are thousands of dissident groups speaking back to the corporate world. I am moved to become involved. I think Vidal's style of writing was more convincing in the presentation of factual information, than in his proselytising sections and his presentations of character. Some characterisations were as Dickensian as his Chapter introductory quotations. However, I think this is an essential read and I plan on using this text in the class room as a companion read to the Australian documentary about the same events.
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