Judge Rules on Final Makeup of McDonald's Settlement

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Siebel ruled in late May that 24 groups would divide a $10 million McDonald’s settlement. The settlement was agreed to by McDonald’s to settle lawsuits that it used a beef extract for the flavoring in its french fries after telling consumers that the french fries were vegetarian.

In April, Siebel removed The National Ramah Commission, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha America, and The Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from the original list of 26 groups due to conflicts of interest with each of those groups. In his final ruling Siebel added the Hillel Jewish campus organization to the settlement.

McDona’ds attorney Peter Hecker was pleased with the ruling, but Jeff Nelson and other opponents of the settlement were left steaming mad. Nelson and others are angered that some of the settlement monies will go to groups that are not sufficiently vegetarian.

In a commentary on the decision, Nelson wrote,

As part of the settlement McDonald’s issued an apology and promised to donate $6 million to “vegetarian organizations” that are “dedicat[ed]” to the “values” of
“vegetarianism.” Instead, working in league with plaintiff attorneys who were supposed to represent vegetarians, McDonald’s made recommendations that much of the settlement money should go to non-vegetarian groups, or to groups which are in fact hostile to vegetarianism.

In documents filed last week in the case, McDonald’s and plaintiff attorneys argued to the court that many vegetarians “eat fish and fowl.” They argued that for the purpose of giving away settlement money, a “vegetarian organization” could be an organization that promotes meat and has a longstanding financial relationship with McDonald’s, so long as that organization promised to use settlement money to “benefit vegetarians.”

. . .

Many in the vegetarian community are outraged that McDonald’s (in league with plaintiff lawyers, who seem to be more eager to collect huge legal fees than properly represent their clients) has succeeded in duping the judge into believing non-veg groups are veg ones.

Of course Nelson conveniently forgets that many animal rights groups lump meat eaters in along with true vegetarians when it fits their propaganda purposes. PETA, for example, routinely maintains that there are about 10 million vegetarians in the United States. That figure is based on a poll conducted by Time Magazine. The problem, of course, is that 6 million of those “vegetarians” in fact had eaten meat, poultry or seafood in the previous 24 hours.

Other groups often included much higher inflated figures that also included “vegetarians” who are really meat eaters. So if PETA and others are willing to include meat eaters in their classification of vegetarians, why shouldn’t a Circuit Court Judge do so as well?

Nelson concludes his article, however, by suggesting that further litigation is in the offing, writing that, “It seems likely that vegetarians concerned about justice will appeal this verdict, and at a minimum make a final effort to stop McDonald’s from once again defrauding the vegetarian community.”

Hey, don’t let us stop you from enriching your lawyers.


Ten groups to split settlement. Associated Press, May 2003.

McDonald’s Case: Final Chapter? Jeff Nelson, VegSource.Com, May 22, 2003.

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