McDonald’s Lawsuit is Over
[Note: a slightly shortened version of this article appeared in
the September / October 2005 issue of VegNews. I have
appended to it descriptions given to me by the Vegetarian Resource Group
(VRG), North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS), the American Vegan
Society (AVS), and the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietary Practice Group (VNDPG),
in answer to questions I asked as to whether they had gotten the money
yet (as of June 1, 2005) and what they intended to do with the money.]
The lawsuit against McDonald’s concerning beef in their french
fries is over.
On March 31, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld the distribution of
$10 million in the case, including $6 million to "vegetarian
organizations." Vegetarian appellants had questioned whether some
of the recipients (such as Tufts University) were really
"vegetarian organizations." But the appellate court upheld the
settlement, saying that the intent of the settlement "was to use
the funds for programs serving the interests of people following
vegetarian dietary practices in the broadest sense." No further
appeals are in process.
As of June 1, no actual money had been distributed yet. "We got
a letter about mid-May," said Freya Dinshah of the American Vegan
Society. "They are researching whether we comply with the Patriot
Act — to verify that we won’t divert funds to Al-Qaeda or
something." Groups are restricted in what they can do with the
money — "this money must be spent specifically for those
[court-approved] projects," pointed out Brian Graff of the North
American Vegetarian Society.
Children are a high priority among the many approved projects. NAVS
will be developing a curriculum on vegetarianism for school children;
AVS will produce a children’s cookbook. The Vegetarian Resource Group
will be creating and distributing vegetarian nutrition materials for
children, according to Charles Stahler, who added "if groups and
activists would like copies of our ‘I Love Animals and Broccoli’
coloring book for tabling and presentations, let us know. . . . There is
an unlimited amount of work to do."
— Keith Akers
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From Charles Stahler, Vegetarian Resource Group:
The court approved certain programs for VRG, mainly focusing on education of health professionals, children, food services, and Latinos, as well as research and publication of information related to ingredients and vegetarian restaurants.
For example, this summer we will have a booth at the American School Food Service Association annual meeting, and because of the grant will be able to bring in a chef to be at our outreach booth. This year she previously gave a presentation at the National Association of College and University Food Service Purchasing Managers Conference.
Our dietitian Reed Mangels, PhD, RD published in the Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group newsletter of the American Dietetic Association: Strategies for Working with Vegetarian Infants, Children, and Adolescents. This is being reprinted in Medical Nutrition Practice Group newsletter and in Vegetarian Nutrition DPG newsletter. One of our goals has always been to reach health professionals and make it easier to be vegetarian. The grant money will enable us to continue these types of projects.
There is an unlimited amount of work to do, and we thank our very hard working staff, volunteers, many supporters, and other groups who enable us to contribute towards bringing about a better world.
From Brian Graff, North American Vegetarian Society:
In early May we received a notice, from a plaintiff attorney in the case, informing us that the appeals process was over and that they were in the process of establishing the procedure for disbursing the settlement money to the organizations. Part of the finalizing process includes rechecking all the organizations to make sure that they are still in compliance with the Patriot Act.
The settlement attorneys selected most, but not all, of the projects we had originally proposed. This money must be spent specifically for those approved projects. All groups, including NAVS, will be required to account for their expenditures of settlement funds to the court appointed disbursing officer, who in turn will be accountable to the court.
The five NAVS projects approved by the court are:
Develop a curriculum on vegetarianism for school children;
Develop a booklet on healthy eating for people of low income;
Hire a registered dietitian (or dietitians) to work on publications and other projects;
Make improvements to Vegetarian Voice magazine;
Improve the effectiveness and usefulness of our web site.
We welcome this funding, and are looking forward to expanding our services to both the vegetarian community and to individuals interested in learning more about vegetarianism.
From Freya Dinshah, American Vegan Society:
We haven't gotten a check yet. We got a letter about mid-May from the plaintiffs' lawyer, McDonald's lawyer, and the disbursement officer. They are researching whether we comply with the Patriot Act -- to verify that we won't divert funds to Al-Quaeda or something. We have just sent our application and agreement letter along with our budget of how we will spend the money in the areas designated. We hope everything goes through.
We'll utilize the money over a period of 10 years. We have a project to do a children's cookbook, some scholarship money to help people attend conferences, and the funds will help us improve our services to the public and our members.
From Eleanor Pella, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietary Practice Group:
Cathy Conway is who I credit for making sure the VNDPG was part of the
settlement fund. She said at a national VNDPG membership meeting in Philadelphia, PA, that she never dreamed her interest in vegetarian diets
would someday lead her to become a political activist, but she felt so passionate about the lawsuit money going for just cause. Had she not
been so keen and or so driven, I suspect the $600,000 would have ended up in ADA's Foundation which is NOT vegetarian or even plant based oriented.