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London Greenpeace was an Anarchist environmentalist activist collective that existed between 1972 and 2001. They were based in London, and came to international prominence when two of their activists refused to capitulate to McDonald's in the landmark libel case known as "McLibel".
In 1972 a group of activists around Peace News formed a new group committed to environmentalism and Anarchism. Initially called "Against the French Tests", they changed their name to Greenpeace - Stop the French Tests, campaigning against the testing of French nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
London Greenpeace is not affiliated with Greenpeace. Greenpeace was formed out of a rough coalition of various environmentalist groups in 1971, many of whom were already using the name "Greenpeace". London Greenpeace emphatically wanted to remain independent of this new and larger Greenpeace, which they saw as being too "centralized and mainstream for their tastes".
London Greenpeace's politics have primarily been informed by Anarchism. They have been linked, ideologically and in their activism with radical environmentalism, green anarchism and pacifism. They have been officially affiliated with War Resisters' International, the National Peace Council, and the Animal Liberation movement. In the 1980s they were involved with the Stop the City campaigns, whilst the 1990s saw them helping to initiate the London-wide Reclaim The Streets Network. They are viewed as one of the first Anarchist groups to promote a specifically environmentalist message.
During the second half of the 1970s the group pioneered the campaign against nuclear power, and worked with a number of anti-nuclear alliances such as Stop Urenco, the Torness Alliance, and the Nuclear Information network. London Greenpeace was also involved in the opposition to the Falkland War, and co-founded the Anti-Falkland War Support network.
In London in 1972, Rod Marining, Co-founder and Vice-President of the Greenpeace Foundation, met with 4 people from Peace News. Rod suggested that these four set up a Greenpeace London. A peace news button was exchanged for a Greenpeace button to seal the deal. Robert (Bob) Hunter, another co-founder and the president of Greenpeace, had written a book, called Enemies of Anarchy. These two founders, approved the anarchist views of Greenpeace London and shield the London organization from Greenpeace Foundation rules and financial regulations right up to the new formation of Greenpeace International in 1979.
With Rod and Bob leaving the organisational structure of Greenpeace International in 1982, Greenpeace's new 1982 chair and board went after Greenpeace London, citing copyright infringement. A long legal battle ensued with Greenpeace London. Greenpeace International lost the costly legal battle, because the Greenpeace International was created in 1979, while Greenpeace London showed proof of registration and logos back to the year 1972. Greenpeace International finally settled the issue out of court with Greenpeace London.
Greenpeace London became world famous for the McLibel, a food defamation case, see mcspotlight.org. The McLibel case became known as one of the first SLAPP suits against freedom of expression. McDonald's Restaurants sued Greenpeace London which later morphed into "McDonalds vs Steel and Morris". The case lasted for decades and finally was settled in 2005. The McLibel case became famous because Mcdonald lost the public relations case in the public mind.
In 2012, citing the McLibel case, a Salmon Farm libel case was filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, birthplace of Greenpeace. Mainstream Salmon Farms vs Staniford. The Judge in this case has reserved judgment.
In 1990 McDonald's issued proceedings against five London Greenpeace supporters, Paul Gravett, Andrew Clarke and Jonathan O'Farrell, Helen Steel and David Morris, for libel. The company offered to withdraw actions against each individual in return for an apology and an undertaking not to repeat the claims. The activists had been distributing a pamphlet throughout London containing allegations regarding starvation in the Third World, destruction of rainforest, the use of recycled paper, links between the company's food and heart disease & breast/bowel cancer, false advertising, the rearing and slaughter of animals, food poisoning, and employment practices. Of the five defendants, Gravett, Clarke and O'Farrell apologised to McDonald's, while Steel and Morris (often referred to as "The McLibel Two") refused.
Almost all of London Greenpeace's resources and efforts went to helping the pair over the years the case was heard, but in 1997 both defendants lost and were ordered to pay McDonald's £60,000. However, the extended court battle was a public relations failure for McDonald's; the company decided not to pursue the two defendants for the money.
In 2001 London Greenpeace issued a public statement announcing their dissolution. While the McLibel action brought fresh energy, publicity and urgency to the organisation, this did not last long, and the group felt it best to permanently suspend their efforts.