By London Greenpeace
Jan 17, 2013
This article is asking you to think for a moment about what lies behind McDonald's clean, bright image. It's got a lot to hide.
"At McDonald's we've got time for you" goes the jingle. Why then do they design the service so that you're in and out as soon as possible? Why is it so difficult to relax in a McDonald's? Why do you feel hungry again so soon after eating a Big Mac?
We're all subject to the pressures of stupid advertising, consumerist hype and the fast pace of big city life - but it doesn't take any special intelligence to start asking questions about McDonald's and to realize that something is seriously wrong.
The more you find out about McDonald's processed food, the less attractive it becomes, as this leaflet will show. The truth about hamburgers is enough to put you off them for life.
What's the connection between McDonald's and starvation in the 'Third World'?
THERE's no point in feeling guilty about eating while watching starving African children on TV. If you do send money to Band Aid, or shop at Oxfam, etc., that's morally good but politically useless. It shifts the blame from governments and does nothing to challenge the power of multinational corporations.
HUNGRY FOR DOLLARS
McDonald's is one of several giant corporations with investments in vast tracts of land in poor countries, sold to them by the dollar-hungry rulers (often military) and privileged elites, evicting the small farmers that live there growing food for their own people.
The power of the US dollar means that in order to buy technology and manufactured goods, poor countries are trapped into producing more and more food for export to the States. Out of 40 of the world's poorest countries, 36 export food to the USA - the wealthiest.
Some 'Third World' countries, where most children are undernourished, are actually exporting their staple crops as animal feed - i.e. to fatten cattle for turning into burgers in the 'First World'. Millions of acres of the best farmland in poor countries are being used for our benefit - for tea, coffee, tobacco, etc. - while people there are starving. McDonald's is directly involved in this economic imperialism, which keeps most black people poor and hungry while many whites grow fat.
GROSS MISUSE OF RESOURCES
GRAIN is fed to cattle in South American countries to produce the meat in McDonald's hamburgers. Cattle consume 10 times the amount of grain and soy that humans do: one calorie of beef demands ten calories of grain. Of the 145 million tons of grain and so fed to livestock, only 21 million tons of meat and by-products are used. The waste is 124 million tons per year at a value of 20 billion US dollars. It has been calculated that this sum would feed, clothe and house the world's entire population for one year.
FIFTY ACRES EVERY MINUTE
EVERY year an area of rainforest the size of Britain is cut down or defoliated, and burnt. Globally, one billion people depend on water flowing from these forests, which soak up rain and release it gradually. The disaster in Ethiopia and Sudan is at least partly due to uncontrolled deforestation. In Amazonia - where there are now about 100,000 beef ranches - torrential rains sweep down through the treeless valleys, eroding the land and washing away the soil. The bare earth, baked by the tropical sun, becomes useless for agriculture. It has been estimated that this destruction causes at least one species of animal, plant or insect to become extinct every few hours.
Why is it wrong for McDonald's to destroy rainforests?
AROUND the Equator there is a lush green belt of incredibly beautiful tropical forest, untouched by human development for one hundred million years, supporting about half of all Earth's life-forms, including some 30,000 plant species, and producing a major part of the planet's crucial supply of oxygen.
PET FOOD & LITTER
McDonald's and Burger King are two of the many US corporations using lethal poisons to destroy vast areas of Central American rainforest to create grazing pastures for cattle to be sent back to the States as burgers and pet food, and to provide fat-food packaging materials. (Don't be fooled by McDonald's saying they use recycled paper: only a tiny percent of it is. The truth is it takes 800 square miles of forest just to keep them supplied with paper for one year. Tons of this end up littering the cities of 'developed' countries.)
Not only are McDonald's and many other corporations contributing to a major ecological catastrophe, they are forcing the tribal peoples in the rainforests off their ancestral territories where they have lived peacefully, without damaging their environment, for thousands of years. This is a typical example of the arrogance and viciousness of multinational companies in their endless search for more and more profit.
What's so unhealthy about McDonald's food?
McDONALD's try to show in their "Nutrition Guide" (which is full of impressive-looking but really quite irrelevant facts & figures) that mass-produced hamburgers, chips, colas, milkshakes, etc., are a useful and nutritious part of any diet.
What they don't make clear is that a diet high in fat, sugar, animal products and salt (sodium), and low in fiber, vitamins and minerals - which describes an average McDonald's meal - is linked with cancers of the breast and bowel, and heart disease. This is accepted medical fact, not a cranky theory. Every year in Britain, heart disease alone causes about 180,000 deaths.
FAST = JUNK
Even if they like eating them, most people recognize that processed burgers and synthetic chips, served up in paper and plastic containers, is junk-food. McDonald's prefer the name "fast-food". This is not just because it is manufactured and serve up as quickly as possible - it has to be eaten quickly too. It's a sign of the junk-quality of Big Macs that people actually hold competitions to see who can eat one in the shortest time.
PAYING FOR THE HABIT
Chewing is essential for good health, as it promotes the flow of digestive juices which break down the food and send nutrients into the blood. McDonald's food is so lacking in bulk it is hardly possible to chew it. Even their own figures show that a "quarter-pounder" is 48% water. This sort of fake food encourages over-eating, and the high sugar and sodium content can make people develop a kind of addiction - a 'craving'. That means more profit for McDonald's, but constipation, clogged arteries and heart attacks for many customers.
GETTING THE CHEMISTRY RIGHT
McDONALD's stripey staff uniforms, flashy lighting, bright plastic decor, "Happy Hats" and music, are all part of the gimmicky dressing-up of low-quality food which has been designed down to the last detail to look and feel and taste exactly the same in any outlet anywhere in the world. To achieve this artificial conformity, McDonald's require that their "fresh lettuce leaf", for example, is treated with twelve different chemicals just to keep it the right color at the right crispness for the right length of time. It might as well be a bit of plastic.
How do McDonald's deliberately exploit children?
NEARLY all McDonald's advertising is aimed at children. Although the Ronald McDonald 'personality' is not as popular as their market researchers expected (probably because it is totally unoriginal), thousands of young children now think of burgers and chips every time they see a clown with orange hair.
THE NORMALITY TRAP.
No parent needs to be told how difficult it is to distract a child from insisting on a certain type of food or treat. Advertisements portraying McDonald's as a happy, circus-like place where burgers and chips are provided for everybody at any hour of the day (and late at night), traps children into thinking they aren't 'normal' if they don't go there too. Appetite, necessity and - above all - money, never enter the "innocent" world of Ronald McDonald.
Few children are slow to spot the gaudy red and yellow standardized frontages in shopping centers and high streets throughout the country. McDonald's know exactly what kind of pressure this puts on people looking after children. It's hard not to give in t this 'convenient' way of keeping children 'happy', even if you haven't got much money and you try to avoid junk-food.
As if to compensate for the inadequacy of their products, McDonald's promote the consumption of meals as a 'fun event'. This turns the act of eating into a performance, with the 'glamor' of being in a McDonald's ('Just like it is in the ads!') reducing the food itself to the status of a prop.
Not a lot of children are interested in nutrition, and even if they were, all the gimmicks and routines with paper hats and straws and balloons hide the fact that the food they're seduced into eating is at best mediocre, at worst poisonous - and their parents know it's not even cheap.
RONALD'S DIRTY SECRET
ONCE told the grim story about how hamburgers are made, children are far less ready to join in Ronald McDonald's perverse antics. With the right prompting, a child's imagination can easily turn a clown into a bogeyman (a lot of children are very suspicious of clowns anyway). Children love a secret, and Ronald's is especially disgusting.
In what way are McDonald's responsible for torture and murder?
THE menu at McDonald's is based on meat. They sell millions of burgers every day in 35 countries throughout the world. This means the constant slaughter, day by day, of animals born and bred solely to be turned into McDonald's products.
Some of them - especially chickens and pigs - spend their lives in the entirely artificial conditions of huge factory farms, with no access to air or sunshine and no freedom of movement. Their deaths are bloody and barbaric.
MURDERING A BIG MAC
In the slaughterhouse, animals often struggle to escape. Cattle become frantic as they watch the animal before them in the killing-line being prodded, beaten, electrocuted, and knifed.
A recent British government report criticized inefficient stunning methods which frequently result in animals having their throats cut while still fully conscious. McDonald's are responsible for the deaths of countless animals by this supposedly humane method. We have the choice to eat meat or not. The 450 million animals killed for food in Britain every year have no choice at all. It is often said that after visiting an abattoir, people become nauseous at the thought of eating flesh. How many of us would be prepared to work in a slaughterhouse and kill the animals we eat?
WHAT'S YOUR POISON?
MEAT is responsible for 70% of all food-poisoning incidents, with chicken and minced meat (as used in burgers) being the worst offenders. When animals are slaughtered, meat can be contaminated with gut contents, feces and urine, leading to bacterial infection. In an attempt to counteract infection in their animals, farmers routinely inject them with doses of antibiotics. These, in addition to growth-promoting hormone drugs and pesticide residues in their feed, build up in the animals' tissues and can further damage the health of people on a meat-based diet.
What's it like working for McDonald's?
There must be a serious problem: even though 80% of McDonald's workers are part-time, the annual staff turnover is 60% (in the USA it's 300 %). It's not unusual for their restaurant-workers to quit after just four or five weeks. The reasons are not hard to find.
NO UNIONS ALLOWED
Workers in catering do badly in terms of pay and conditions. They are at work in the evenings and at weekends, doing long shifts in hot, smelly, noisy environments. Wages are low and chances of promotion minimal.
To improve this through Trade Union negotiation is very difficult: there is no union specifically for these workers, and the ones they could join show little interest in the problems of part-timers (mostly women). A recent survey of workers in burger-restaurants found that 80% said they needed union help over pay and conditions. Another difficulty is that the 'kitchen trade' has a high proportion of workers from ethnic minority groups who, with little chance of getting work elsewhere, are wary of being sacked - as many have been - for attempting union organization.
McDonald's have a policy of preventing unionization by getting rid of pro-union workers. So far this has succeeded everywhere in the world except Sweden, and in Dublin after a long struggle.
TRAINED TO SWEAT
It's obvious that all large chain-stores and junk-food giants depend for their fat profits on the labor of young people. McDonald's is no exception: three-quarters of its workers are under 21. The production-line system de-skills the work itself: nobody can grill a hamburger, and cleaning toilets or smiling at customers needs no training. So there is no need to employ chefs or qualified staff - just anybody prepared to work for low wages.
As there is no legally-enforced minimum wage in Britain, McDonald's can pay what they like, helping to depress wage levels in the catering trade still further. They say they are providing jobs for school-leavers and take them on regardless of sex or race.The truth is McDonald's are only interested in recruiting cheap labor - which always means that disadvantaged groups, women and black people especially, are even more exploited by industry than they are already.
EVERYTHING MUST GO
WHAT's wrong with McDonald's is also wrong with all the junk-food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. All of them hide their ruthless exploitation of resources, animals and people behind a facade of colorful gimmicks and 'family fun. The food itself is much the same everywhere - only the packaging is different. The rise of these firms means less choice, not more. They are one of the worst examples of industries motivated only by profit, and geared to continual expansion.
This materialist mentality is affecting all areas of our lives, with giant conglomerates dominating the marketplace, allowing little or no room for people to create genuine choices. But alternatives do exist, and many are gathering support every day from people rejecting big business in favor of small-scale self-organization and co-operation.
The point is not to change McDonald's into some sort of vegetarian organization, but to change the whole system itself. Anything less would still be a rip-off.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
STOP using McDonald's, Wimpy, etc., and tell your friends exactly why. These companies' huge profits - and therefore power to exploit - come from people just walking in off the street. It does make a difference what individuals do. Why wait for everyone else to wake up?
YOUR INFLUENCE COUNTS
* Research has shown that a large proportion of people who use fast-food places do so because they are there - not because they particularly like the food or feel hungry. This fact alone suggests that hamburgers are part of a giant con that people would avoid if they knew what to do. Unfortunately we tend to undervalue our personal responsibility and influence. This is wrong. All change in society starts from individuals taking the time to think about the way they live and acting on their belief. Movements are 'just ordinary people' linking together, one by one...
MAKE CONTACT, SHARE IDEAS
YOU might not always hear about them, but there are many groups campaigning on the issues raised here - movements to support the struggles in the 'Third World', to fight for the rights of indigenous peoples, to protect rainforests, to oppose the killing of animals etc.
Wherever there is oppression there is resistance: people are organizing themselves, taking courage from the activities of ordinary, concerned people from all round the world, learning new ways and finding new energy to create a better life. The apathy of others is no reason to hang around waiting for someone to tell you what to 'do'. You need no special talents to join in your local pressure group, or start one up - existing groups will give information and advice if necessary.
THERE'S A DIFFERENCE YOU'LL ENJOY: NO MORE MEAT!
KICKING the burger habit is easy. And it's the best way to start giving up meat altogether. Vegetarianism is no longer just a middle-class fad: last year the number of vegetarians in Britain increased by one-third. Most supermarkets now stock vegetarian produce, and vegans - who eat no animal products at all - are also being catered for. In short, the 'cranky' vegetarian label is being chucked out, along with all the other old myths about 'rabbit food'.
Why not try some vegan or vegetarian recipes, just as an experiment to start with? When asked in a survey, most vegetarians who used to eat meat said they had far more varied meals after they dropped meat from their diet. Another survey showed that people on a meatless diet were healthier than meat-eaters, less prone to 'catch' coughs and colds, and with greatly reduced risk of suffering from hernia, piles, obesity and heart disease.
LIBERATION BEGINS IN YOUR STOMACH
THERE are loads of cheap, tasty and nutritious alternatives to a diet based on the decomposing flesh of dead animals: fresh fruit of all kinds, a huge variety of local & exotic vegetables, cereals, pulses, beans, rice, nuts, whole grain foods, soya drinks etc. All over the country whole food co-operatives are springing up. Now is a really good time for change.
A vegan Britain would be self-sufficient on only 25% of the agricultural land presently available. Why not get together with your friends and grow your own vegetables? There are over 700,000 allotments in Britain - and countless gardens.
The pleasure of preparing healthy food and sharing good meals has a political importance too: it is a vital part of the process of ordinary people taking control of their lives to create a better society, instead of leaving their futures in the cynical, reedy hands of corporations like McDonald's.