archivi delle proteste globali
archives of global protests

Reclaiming our lives

for Workshop #5 on Land and Ecology.

A discussion paper (ponencia) by Paul Gravett of London Greenpeace for presentation at the Struggles for Land and Ecology mesa of the Second Intercontinental Meeting for Humanity and against Neoliberalism

(Paul Gravett -


1.Introduction. I will briefly look at the main themes surrounding the topics in this paper.

2.Greenpeace (London). An introduction to who we are and what we stand for.

3.Land. An examination of land ownership and exploitation in Britain.

4.Food. How the modern food industry (agribusiness) exploits us and the planet.

5.The comeuppance. The threat to our health from modern farming.

6.McDonald's and McLibel. How a vast corporation has tried to censor its critics.

7.Revolutionary Ecology. The beliefs which lay at the heart of our fight to save the world.

8.What next... A list of some of the groups mentioned and others you can contact.


As we reach the end of this century we can look back on the enormous changes that have occured over the past 100 years. Anyone alive in 1900 would find unrecognisable what we take for granted today. The motor car had just been invented and claimed its first victim (a woman killed in south east London in August 1896), but only a handful were on the roads and most people had never seen one. The first flight by powered aeroplane was still three years off. Electricity and telephones were a rarity, the preserve of the well-off, and radio and television were years away. Newspapers were the main source of information.

Britain was at the beginning of the consumer age. William Lever founded his empire on Sunlight soap in the 1880s and his company became the first to use packaging to sell its products. In order to feed its demand for natural resources, especially vegetable oil for magarine, he went abroad and developed the first plantation economies in Africa. When Lever Bros amalgamated with a Dutch company, Uni, it became Unilever, the first major multinational food company. Its exploitation of underdeveloped countries in Africa, Asia and South America was the blueprint for what is now known as neocolonialism.

This was the second major stage in capitalism's evolution - the first was industrialisation - and we are now witnessing the third: globalisation. Whereas under neocolonialism the underdeveloped world was used as a source of cheap raw materials for markets in western Europe and north America, under globalisation the whole world becomes a market. Capital is switched between nations and continents, wherever the rate of profit is higher. Older industrial economies such as Britain, America and Germany find themselves being left behind as the new, lean economies of the Pacific rim attract investment.

Neoliberalism is the ideological infrastructure of globalisation. There is little 'new' in neoliberalism, however, as it is a return to that ideology's eighteenth and nineteenth century roots. Free markets, individualism, small government (except in certain key areas such as policing and defence) are the building blocks and the results are expressed in the new vocabulary of 1990s political economy: downsizing, flexible labour markets, structural adjustment, etc. Workers, even affluent middle class ones, now find job security is a thing of the past as investment flows towards where labour costs are lowest. The poorest sections of society face the removal of social security safety nets and introduction of workfare schemes.

In keeping with the theme of this paper, land and ecology, I shall be looking at how agriculture and the food industry in Britain are organised to serve the interests of multinationals and the profit system. This inevitably leads to gross exploitation of people, animals and the environment and is interwoven with the loss of our connectedness to nature. The vast majority of people in this country do not experience any meaningful bond with the natural world, even those who live in the countryside. Their relationship to nature is mediated by cultural constraints, for example the motor car, television, work. They see the environment as being separate from and outside of themselves. Herein lies the importance of ecology, which is about the interdependence of all forms of life, and I shall examine the revolutionary implications of this view of the world. But first...

Greenpeace (London)

Or London Greenpeace as it is more usually known has its origins in the radical anti-nuclear and anti-war movement of the early 1970s. Groups using the name 'Greenpeace' sprung into life across the globe to oppose French nuclear tests in the pacific. They were autonomous anarchistic entities. The London group worked closely with the Australian and New Zealand groups to organise marches and pickets of French embassies In 1973 it coordinated an international walk from London to Paris and picketed the French Embassy in London throughout 1973 and 74.

The group was formed out of the 'Greenpeace Broadsheet', published as a supplement to Peace News of 9th July 1971. This was one of the first modern declarations of alternative ecological thinking from a British group, and it began with quoting the first Digger manifesto of 1649. The Diggers were a collection of landless, unemployed labourers who at the time of the English Revolution occupied areas of unused land in different parts of England. They were viciously suppressed by landowners and Oliver Cromwell's army, but not before their spokesperson Gerrard Winstanley had issued A Declaration to the Powers of England and all the Powers of the World. In it he wrote:

'The work we are going about is this, to dig up George's Hill and the wasteground thereabouts, and to sow corn, and to eat our bread together by the sweat of our brows, and lay the foundations of making the Earth a common treasury for all, both rich and poor, that every one is born in the land, may be fed by the Earth his mother that brought him forth, according to the reason and rules in the Creation. The question of land ownership and control of natural resources remains as crucial for oppressed peoples today as it did for the diggers 350 years ago. As the Broadsheet said: 'We have to start taking the future into our own hands. More and more people are moving in this direction. It is not of course enough to concentrate on putting our own house in order while neglecting direct action against the larger political/business concerns. These continue to destroy our environment in many ways, from the concrete swathes of motorway madness to mercury discharges in our waterways, and they must be confronted. In other words, personal action should inevitably lead to local community action. The bureaucracies of organisation will break down to a human scale once again, the Community will reassume greater importance than the state, husbandry will replace industry, and craftmanship, mass manufacture. As we lose the idea that Man must assert domination over nature, we will forget that man used to dominate over man' (and woman! -1997 addendum).

These sentiments, expressed right at the start of the group, would I suggest provide a working blueprint for all its activities over the next 25 years. While always working on local issues - saving green spaces from 'development', for instance - we have never lost sight of the global perspective. In the 1980s London Greenpeace campaigned against the financial heart of the industrial death machine, the City of London, in the the Stop the City actions of 1983 and 84. Thousands of people descended upon the 'square mile' as it is known, defying police intimidation to voice their disapproval at the powerful institutions trying to control our lives and are wrecking the planet. In the second half of the decade we confronted two of the biggest food multinationals - McDonalds and Unilever - and the international capitalist system represented by the major banks, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Before coming to the central themes of this document - land and food - I should clear up any confusion that may arise over the relationship between London Greenpeace and Greenpeace International. As I said earlier we were the first Greenpeace group established in Europe in 1971, and many more were set up in other countries. In 1977 the Vancouver Greenpeace Foundation established its branch in Britain but the supporters of London Greenpeace at that time decided they wanted to retain our independence. Over the years Greenpeace International has become part of a multinational environmental lobby, whereas London Greenpeace has stayed close to its anarchist roots. There is no animosity between the two organisations; we recognise we have taken different routes, but are working for the same goal.


The question of land and who controls it goes right to the core of the current social and ecological crisis. Land is the prerequsite of everything else - all forms of so-called 'development', food production, housing, etc. Whoever owns it then has the power to exploit it. One of the first acts of colonialism was to deprive the indigenous populations access to land, but governments were only replicating what what they had first done to their own peoples. In Britain from the 13th century onwards landowners began dispossessing peasant farmers, enclosing the land for sheep rearing. As profits from wool skyrocketed the pace of enclosure increased rapidly in the 16th and 17th centuries, resulting in huge social unrest and widespread riots and uprisings that secure little if any space in history books. The Diggers were merely the most celebrated of umpteen different groups of disaffected landless labourers. Enclosure continued until well into the nineteenth century (often enforced by Acts of Parliament)and resulted in the present situation whereby almost all land is privately owned and we are not allowed onto it except for certain 'rights of way', which are constantly under threat.

In her 1987 book, This Land is Our Land, Marion Shoard, gives a breakdown of just who owns what land in Britain. The largest landowner was the Forestry Commission with nearly 3 million acres, and substantial areas were also owned by the Ministry of Defence, water authorities, local authorities and nationalised industries. The privatisation programme of the last Conservative government means that much of this land is now owned by private companies or controlled by state quangos - unelected bodies appointed by the government .Nevertheless more than 80 per cent of land is owned, as it has been for the last 1000 years, by private individuals. A small number of titled families own nearly a third of all land. In Scotland, whole islands, forests, or even mountain ranges may belong to one individual, and if they decide to put a fence around the entire area, to stop the rest of the population from entering, there is nothing we can legally do about it. There are also about 120,000 miles of public footpaths and bridleways, known as public rights of way, which are much older than roads, some dating back over 10,000 years. Landowners are supposed to maintain them and see they are clear of obstacles but surveys by the walkers rights organisation, the Ramblers Association, have found up to a third of routes impassable.

A common sight on privately owned land are signs saying 'Trespassers will be prosecuted'. Until recently this was inaccurate since trespass was not a criminal offence. It was a civil matter between the individual and the landowner. Since the 1994 Criminal Justice Act there is now an offence of aggrivated trespass, which was introduced mainly to criminalise hunt saboteurs and 'New Age Travellers'. The latter is a term applied to an eclectic collection of people who lived a nomadic existence, travelling in convoys and organising free festivals in places like Stonehenge. As a result of police repression and new draconian laws their peaceful way of life, which owed so much to the idea of 'common land', has been effectively outlawed. The issue of land use has come to the fore again recently with the anti-roads movement. Over 200 different camps have been set up all over the country in opposition to proposed new roads or expansion of existing ones. Along with the questioning of car culture - which is itself responsible for the expropriation of vast tracts of land - has emerged a wider critique of land ownership and exploitation

The private ownership of land is essential to capitalism for two reasons. Firstly it facilitates the use of land for capitalist production; the landowner can build a factory, grow crops or graze animals purely on grounds of profitability. In this country the government actually pays farmers not to use their land. Left to the market nearly all land will be 'developed', simply because there is little profit to be made from leaving it in its natural state. Secondly, it allows landowners and other members of the ruling class to enjoy a refuge from the rest of society. High property values effectively isolate members of the working class from those who weald control over them. This leads to the steady fragmentation of community, the growth of what is called the underclass and the 'drawbridge society', where the privileged can seek sanctuary from a hostile world behind security cameras and metal grilles over their windows. The poor, denied access to land, are marooned in marginal areas: sink estates in this country, shantytowns in Asia or Latin America.

Worldwide, the issue of land ownership and control is paramount. As globalisation spreads corporations seek to carve up the world in their search for resources and quick profits. The exploitation of the Ogoni delta and its inhabitants by Shell, in league with the Nigerian state, is just the latest in a series of struggles occuring globally. Most receive little or no publicity but they are happening. In Latin America 7 per cent of the population own 93 per cent of land. It's this degree of inequality and oppression that has led to movements such as the Movimento Sem-Terra (MST) in Brazil, which since 1984 has coordinated land occupations.and helped those who have won land to produce food. In 1995 there were 30,500 families engaged in illegal land invasions spread over almost 150 sites throughout Brazil. They have often been on the receiving end of brutal violence - on 17th May 1996, for instance, the military police charged a group of 1,200 MST activists who were blockading a highway and killed 19 of them - but the importance thing is resistance is growing everywhere.

Redistribution of land formed the central demand of the Zapitistas. Huge tracts of Chiapas were owned by large landowners while the indigenous populations scratched out a living on the mountain slopes. In Britain the situation is similar. With the vast majority denied any access to land and homelessness growing while hundreds of thousands of houses lay empty, squatting is a crucial political issue as well as being one of survival for the individuals concerned. Despite attempts to criminalise such activities, thousands of people continue to occupy empty dwellings and even to form communities of their own, such as the eco-village set up by the This Land is Ours campaign on five acres of derelict land owned by the Guinness corporation by the Thames in London.

London Greenpeace celebrates this diversity of struggle wherever it is found. Over the years our supporters have been actively involved in the squatting movement and campaigns to save natural spaces under threat by 'development'.


It isn't surprising that with land availability being so unequal, there is massive inequality when it comes to access to food. The 'world food crisis' is so well documented I do not need to discuss it at length here. Hundreds of millions survive on the margins of malnutrition and starvation, ecking out an existence largely because they are denied sufficient land to grow food or because they are paid wages too low to buy it. This situation has not arisen by accident, it is the inevitable consequence of the worldwide production and distribution of foodstuffs for profit, not need. The poor need food just as badly as the rich but because they lack 'purchasing power', - ie money - the market does not take them into account.

The world food trade is dominated by huge multinational corporations such as Nestle, Unilever, Dalgety, Cargill, and McDonald's. Business is zextremely profitable. Unilever is the third biggest British company, only the petrochemical giants Shell and BP are larger. These companies have fashioned a system based upon the gross exploitation of people, animals and the environment in order to satisfy their greed for global expansion. They have turned production and consumption into a highly advanced and profitable industrial process. Instead of food grown locally for the needs of communities, reflecting their cultural diversity, we have complex industrial processing of raw materials into commodities for the global supermarket.

Globalisation has always been integral to the food multinationals. As far back as the 1970s the Financial Times reported: New markets for British made ice-cream, sausages and frozen foods are being promoted by Unilever in the up-country regions of Sierra Leone and Liberia...deep freezes at retail outlets in villages, replenished by van from refrigerated supplies shipped in from Liverpool or London...for Birdseye and Walls products...shipped to Matadi and then railed 400 km up-country to Kinshasa. Some of the goods are then distributed to other regions in aircraft. The global reach of the food multinationals is astonishing. McDonald's now claims to be feeding 35 million people each day in 21,000 restaurants in 101 countries. A new branch opens every three hours. The appetite for expansion is undiminished. In 1995 they moved into ten new countries and are currently expanding in China, the biggest market of all. Through a $2 billion advertising budget they persuade customers that to eat a McDonald's is good, wholesome and modern. Standardisation is the key: a Big Mac will taste exactly the same wherever in the world it is eaten, be prepared in the same way in restaurants that look identical. A new homogenous culture is being created, a future where food looks and tastes the same, where meals are bought prepackaged, pre- cooked. We don't grow food anymore; it comes from factories wrapped in polythene, tasteless but antiseptic and, er, safe...?

After its discovery in 1939 the insecticide DDT was hailed as one of the wonders of modern science. But it does not easily break down in the environment, instead accumulating in the body fat of those who consume it. Insects coated with DDT are eaten by birds who in turn may be eaten by predators. When enough insecticide has collected, the animal dies. Contaminated grass is eaten by cows, which then pass on some of the pesticide in their milk. This accumulates along with DDT from vegetable residues and in meat. Mothers can even pass it on to their babies through breastfeeding. In 1962 Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published, the title referring to the wholesale massacre of birds from pesticide poisoning, hence no birdsong. This book was perhaps the first to alert the public to the environmental crisis and it also warned that the nature of food production had changed decisively. Modern science and industry had intervened in the traditional food trade.

The years after World War II saw governments in developed economies such as Britain and the USA adopt strategies to encourage their populations to eat certain foods, especially meat, dairy products and eggs. This diet was considered the highest in the vitamins that pre-war people lacked, and was vigorously promoted as the modern healthy way to eat. The growth in the 'affluent society' from the 1950s onwards saw the consumption in saturated fats and animal proteins skyrocket. With increased demand came a new form of husbandry known as factory farming. The traditional farmyard and smallholding was replaced by huge windowless sheds containing thousands of animals. Egg laying hens crammed five to cage, unable to spread their wings or even turn around, their beaks chopped off to prevent them pecking each other - battery farming. In 1960 only about 20 per cent of eggs were produced in this way but by 1984 the figure had risen to 96 per cent.

As the label 'factory' farming suggests, animals are treated like objects from which as much profit as possible should be extracted. Little consideration is paid to their feelings, despite the fact we know they are sentient and intelligent creatures. Dairy cows, for example, are turned into milk machines. Impregnated by artificial insemination, they produce ten times as much as their calves would have drunk had suckling been allowed to continue (calves are removed from their mothers after only a few days, to the distress of both). The average natural lifespan of a dairy cow is 20 years, but three quarters are killed before the age of eight due to being 'burnt out'. Male calves are usually reared for the veal trade. Until 1990 in Britain this meant the notorious veal crate, where the animal was imprisoned in a two foot wide box, often tethered as well, and deprived of water and solid food. A diet based on EC surplus skimmed milk was fed to the calves, who normally spent their lives in semi-darkness until slaughter at 14 weeks. Public outrage led to this system being banned in Britain in 1990, but up to 300,000 calves were exported to Europe to end up in similar conditions every year until the trade was banned a result of the BSE crisis.

Other species mainly reared under intensive conditions include pigs, turkeys and rabbits. For all farmed animals rearing is not the end of their suffering; they then have to face transportation and slaughter. There is no time limit to the length of journeys. Chickens are grabbed by gangs of catchers and stuffed into crates. Up to 7,000 birds can be carried in one lorry load, with about 25 per cent suffering broken bones as a result of rough handling. About 1 per cent of broiler chickens die during transit (5 to 6 million per year). The slaughter process itself is brutal and bloody. Even were it to work precisely according to the book it would still cause enormous distress to the animals concerned. In practice though, piece-rate working in abbatoirs means getting the maximum numbers killed in as short a time as possible. Scissor-like tongs placed on both sides of the sheep's or pig's head to stun it with electrical current are not applied long enough to render it unconscious. Poultry hung upside down on a moving shackle-line often miss the electric water bath designed to stun them before their throats are cut. Many reach the scalding tank (boiling water to loosen their feathers) whilst still alive and conscious.

In Britain about 800 million animals are killed for food annually, of which about 200 million are not 'humanely' killed even by the inadequate standards of our law. There are now over 3 million vegetarians, with millions more reducing their meat intake, and about 100,000 vegans, who eat no animal products at all. Public awareness of issues such as factory farming as led directly to an upsurge of support for the animal rights movement. There are now hundreds of local and national groups opposing the exploitation of animals, from respectable national bodies such as Compassion in World Farming to illegal groups like the Animal Liberation Front, who rescue animals from farms and vivisection laboratories. In 1995 thousands of protestors blockaded ports in southern England to stop calves and sheep being exported abroad.

Animal cruelty is not the only reason why people stop eating meat. It is now recognised that a diet based on animal protein is extremely wasteful and unecological, as ten times as much land is required to feed a meat eater as a vegetarian. About 30 per cent of all the grain produced worldwide is fed to livestock, yet on average it takes ten pounds of vegetable protein to make one pound of edible animal protein. In Britain 90 per cent of grain is fed to farm animals. Many underdeveloped countries whose populations suffer from malnutrition allow huge areas of land to be grazed for cattle, most of which end up in hambugers. High protein crops such as soya are exported from Brazil to be fed to cows in industrialised nations for fast food outlets. Worse still multinationals are encouraging intensive farms to open up in poor countries in Asia and Latin America, touting them as an answer to indigenous food scarcity. This is the madness of a system based on coporate greed and profit.

The Comeuppance

While the adverse affects of modern food production were only being felt by animals and overseas populations, the majority of people in countries like Britain could afford to shut their eyes to the truth and believe the farming lobby's lies that they had cheaper, cleaner and more nutritious meals than ever before. By the 1980s, however, there were unmistakable signs of trouble ahead. Animals are routinely dosed with antibiotics to combat diseases that spread quickly under unnatural intensive conditions, and as a result some strains of salmonella are 'multi-resistant' to the commonest antibiotics. Cases of food poisoning from salmonella in the UK doubled between 1981 and 1987. The bacteria lives in poultry and livestock and was spread in contaminated chickenfeed, leading to the worst outbreak in 1988 that cost 26 lives.

Another even more deadly bug that has appeared recently is E.coli0157. Only discovered in 1982, it is known as the burger bug because it appears in hambugers not cooked all the way through. The bacterium lives in the intestines of cattle but can pass to raw meat through contamination in the slaughterhouse as the quick throughput of animals leads to spillage. Late last year an outbreak of E.coli poisoning in Scotland claimed 21 lives. Studies have shown that the spreading of animal manure on pasture land and recycling of animal remains has led to the rise in incidence of the disease, but the meat industry has resisted efforts to reduce the risk.

The most famous food scandal of all is undoubtedly BSE, or mad cow disease. This arose from the unnatural practice of feeding offal to cows, such recycling of animal remains being common because so much waste is generated by factory farming. The first case was reported in 1985 but the public weren't protected by a ban on cows with the disease entering the food chain until November 1989. Over the next few years the government and the food industry issued bland reassurances that British beef was safe, there was no risk of humans being infected, or even infected meat entering the food chain, despite evidence showing cross- species contamination and loopholes in the law that was supposed to protect consumers. In fact this was a new disease agent, not a virus or baterium but a rogue protein molecule called a prion about which very little was known. In March 1996 the government was forced to admit a likely link between a new form of the human brain disease, CJD, and eating beef infected with BSE. The meat industry was rocked to its foundations and a worldwide ban on British beef exports followed. It is still too early whether to say whether there will be just a few cases of CJD or we are at the start of a major health crisis.

And another may be just around the corner. Genetically modified food. The chemical industry giant Monsanto has manipulatd the genetic code of the soya bean and inserted viral and bacterial DNA into the plant's genes, to make it resistant to the herbicide that the company also manufactures. Three-fifths of all processed food contains soya products and although only 2% of soya grown last year was genetically modified, it is mixed with ordinary soya so it is not possible to know whether you are eating it. In Britain foods containing genetically modified ingredients do not have to be labelled. The industry claims it is safe because the products have been approved by the 'relevant authorities'. But these were the same 'authorities' who in the past approved DDT, thalidomide and BSE-infected cattle, with serious effects on human health and the environment.

The danger to our health from BSE, E.coli and salmonella is real and frightening but even that is dwarfed by enormous changes in the average Western diet which have led to the epidemic growth in illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and diabetes. They are directly linked to a diet high in animal fat, salt, sugar and chemical additives, and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals; just what the average person in 'affluent' countries such as Britain eats every day and what global food corporations are introducing into other parts of the world. For them highly processed food equals big profits, for us it means poor nutrition. Tackling this problem is going to be difficult. These companies are powerful and ruthless, as one small group of London anarchists discovered.


In the mid-1980s London Greenpeace confronted one of the world's biggest food multinationals, the McDonald's corporation. McDonald's was singled out not only because of its size but because it spent a fortune promoting itself as a fun place to eat and symbolised everything we hate: corporate greed hiding behind the happy smiling face of a clown. The first day of action was held in January 1985 and it was decided to make 16th October - United Nations World Food Day - a Worldwide Day of Action against McDonald's. The campaign really took off. London Greenpeace has only ever been a small group with perhaps 15-20 people attending regularly at that time, and in keeping with its anarchist principles it saw itself as a catalyst encouraging people to start local campaigns. Soon we began receiving reports from all over the country and abroad and since then the Worldwide Day of Action has become an annual event.

A special factsheet was written entitled What's Wrong with McDonald's - Everything they don't want you to know. This foldout six- sided leaflet contained everything then known about the company's practices; much of which was common knowledge already in the public domain, but for the first time collected in one place. McDonald's were accused of producing unhealthy food, misleading advertising that exploited children, treating their workers badly, the 'torture and murder' of millions of animals, and destroying the environment, especially tropical rainforest cut down for cattle ranching. With an eye-catching cover of a leering cartoon cowboy capitalist hiding behind a Ronald McDonald mask, the factsheet was an instant success. Though popular it was expensive to print and was handed out in public only once, on World Day 1986, but copies were sent to anyone who requested it and soon other groups were using it make their own leaflets.

In early 1987 London Greenpeace produced a smaller A5 size McDonald's leaflet and henceforth this was the one that was always handed out on demonstrations organised by us. Around this time we became aware that the company was threatening groups and publications who criticised it with legal action. The list included national newspapers like The Guardian, the World Wildlife Fund, trades unions and small organisations such as the Transnational Information Centre, who published a pamphlet about McDonald's, Working for the Big Mac, and was quickly threatened with a libel writ for saying the company was anti- union and paid its workers low wages. The group could not afford to fight the action and had to be disbanded. A vegan catering campaign based in Nottingham, Veggies, had been reprinting the factsheet for a long time. McDonald's threatened them but after agreeing to amend their version slightly (changing a few words to do with killing animals and the destruction of rainforest), the action was dropped. London Greenpeace told groups who felt intimidated to follow Veggies example, but we stuck by the factsheet as being accurate.

In September 1990 five people involved in London Greenpeace received writs for libel. McDonald's alleged 16 different libels in the factsheet, pertaining to every criticism made of them. They sued five individuals because London Greenpeace is not a limited company and hence cannot be sued as an organisation. In order to gather information on the five they hired 'security firms' to send spies to meetings. From October 1989 to the spring of 1991 there were seven different investigators used. At some meetings there were as many spies as bona fide supporters and the spies themselves admitted to answering letters, and helping on stalls. One in particular played a leading role in the group, helping to organise the 1990 London Greenpeace Fayre and taking part in anti- McDonald's protests, including one outside the company's head office. She even had a relationship with someone in the group.

Once the writs were served on us it soon became obvious what we were up against. Legal aid is not available in libel trials, yet none of us were working or had any money. We were given a few hours free legal advice which amounted to: give up and apologise (McDonald's said they would drop the action if we apologised in writing). Libel law in Britain is probably the most repressive anywhere. We would have to prove every laim was true, not by quoting articles or leaflets but by going to primary sources. This would entail getting witnesses from around the world or finding evidence in original official documents. Even then we were told it was unlikely the case would ever come to court due to the complex legal proceedures; our defence would be struck out at a pre- trial hearing and we would be liable for costs running into tens of thousands of pounds. As we had no assets we would be bankrupted. In other countries such as the USA, McDonald's would not have been able to sue us without proving that we knew the factsheet was untrue. That's why although there were groups making similar criticisms throughout the world, McDonald's chose to fight the case in Britain; they realised that is where they would stand the best chance of winning and a victory would send a message to their critics everywhere. In essence this action was about the right of ordinary people who care about the world to criticise vast, faceless corporations.

Under immense pressure myself and two other defendants made an apology. We reasoned that it was no more than a tactical withdrawl. None of us really wanted to be occupied by the anti-McDonald's campaign anyway, we had moved onto other areas. Dave Morris and Helen Steel decided not to back down, however, and despite what at the time must have appeared overwhelming odds they have fought the case through 28 pre-trial hearings and then a two and a half year trial, the longest English legal history. The odds have been stacked against them from the start: McDonald's used one of the top firms of solicitors and the most senior libel barrister in the country. They even argued successfully that there should be no jury, because ordinary people could not understand the complex evidence on nutrition. So it will be left to the judge alone to decide whether libel was committed and his verdict is expected in June 1997..

For McDonald's the case has proved a public relations disaster. The trial has uncovered a mass of information about the inner workings of the company and on every count Dave and Helen have been vindicated. McDonald's own witnesses have admitted in court that many of the critics allegations are true. Media interest has been phenomenal. Whereas few journalists would dare say anything even slightly critical of the company, they now feel able to report the truth. Anything said in court can be repeated without fear of libel, but more importantly people everywhere feel less intimidated by the bullying threats of large corporations. A website called McSpotlight has been set up on the internet and accessed millions of times. Dave and Helen have struck a mighty blow for free speech. And in a marvellous twist of fate they are suing McDonald's themselves, for calling them liars in a leaflet issued just before the trial began. Most important of all, though, is the struggle against McDonald's and other corporations has exploded as people become incensed at at their attempts to stifle opposition and over 2 million anti-McDonald's leaflets have been handed out in the UK alone since the writs were served. Protests and campaigns against McDonald's continue in 25 countries. Aware they are losing in the courtroom and on the streets, McDonald's have tried to come to an out of court settlement, but Helen and Dave refused. The movement is clearly unstoppable.

Revolutionary Ecology

Resistance to globalisation, as expressed in the anti-McDonald's campaign and others now going on throughout the world, takes many forms. What unites them all - from Chiapas and the Zapitistas to the anti-roads protests in Britain - is a concern for protecting local interests. Usually this centres around land and our need for food, clothing, homes and other necessities. Governments and corporations are trying to deprive communities of their local autonomy by integrating them into a global marketplace, where decisions are made hierarchically and people become mere passive consumers of commodities pumped out by multinationals spending billions on advertising to sell us the next new- improved product we cannot live without.

At the heart of the struggle is the awareness that unless we take control of our lives we will not be able to save ourselves, or the earth from ecological destruction. The term 'ecology' was first used in 1873 by a German scientist Ernst Haeckel to describe the interrelationships between organisms and their environment. These interrelationships are called an ecosystem. Within an ecosystem diversity is the key to stability; the greater the number of species supported by an environment the more likely the ecosystem is to survive. Globalisation is a threat to diversity, whether cultural, social or ecological. The cancerous spread of the free market's cash nexus undermines traditional communities not founded on materialistic values, for example tribal or indigenous peoples who live in a close interrelationship to their environment. They are often forced from their land so it can be turned over to the production of cash crops, monocultures such as tobacco, coffee or beef from cattle. Hence loss of cultural diversity inevitably means the loss of ecological diversity. In the new global supermarket uniformity and standardisation will be the dominant characterisitcs.

The Second encuentro is a coming together of people and groups opposed to the new global consensus of neoliberalism.. It is a celebration of many diverse strands of resistance and such diversity is by its very nature ecological, but it is also an opportunity to explore our interdependence. All struggles for a world based on cooperation and sharing, for small communities against large institutions, for free self-expression of our creative potential, for alternative ways of living, for human and animal liberation, for the chance to live in dignity and in harmony with nature...these are all struggles for ecology. Ecology is freedom and diversity -and it is revolutionary!

What next...

I hope you have found this paper informative and thought provoking. Here are the details of some of the groups mentioned, and others you may be interested in.

Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group, BCM 1160, London WC1N 3XX. Animal Rights Coalition, PO Box 339, Wolverhampton, WV10 7BZ. 01902 711935. Earth First! Action Update, PO Box 9656, London N4 4YJ. 0171 5619146. Genetics Forum, 3rd Floor, 5-11 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BH 011 6380606 Hunt Saboteurs Association, PO Box 2786, Brighton, Sussex BN2 2AX. 01273 622827. London Greenpeace/McLibel Support Campaign, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX. 0171 7131269. McSpotlight: Website for info on McDonald's libel case. Reclaim the Streets, PO Box 9565, London N4. 0171 2814621. Anti- roads/car group. This Land is ours, BoxE, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RQ. 01865 722016. Vegan Society, 7 Battle Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN37 7AA. )1424 427393

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