Show me the (meatless) money

When McDonald’s announced that it would pay $12.5 million and issue an apology to settle a class-action lawsuit over the use of small amounts of beef extract in its (otherwise vegetarian) French fries, legal and cultural observers alike wondered just where all that green would wind up.

The Seattle Times offered some hints on Sunday, describing a tug-of-war between animal rights groups, vegetarian-only dietary activists, and the religious groups who were originally supposed to benefit most. “This whole settlement is a sham,” said Harish Bharti, the case’s lead attorney.

But while the final distribution of funds has yet to be approved by a judge, there is one thing that the Times can say with certainty: “[T]he attorneys will divide $2.5 million no matter who receives the other $10 million.” Oh — and one more thing: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will not share in the payday. PETA, says the Times, “requested money from the settlement… and was turned down.” Score one for the good guys.

Whoever emerges as the big winner in this squabble, perhaps the attendant publicity will have at least one positive consequence. With any luck, it will prevent attorney John Banzhaf from continuing to claim that the McDonald’s case was about fat content and obesity.

Writing in the Washington Times just last week, Banzhaf claimed that “McDonald’s just paid $12.5 million to settle a fat-fraud lawsuit.” Banzhaf continues to use deceptions like this to buttress his flimsy arguments in favor of suing “Big Food” the way he did Big Tobacco. And we continue to promote the truth as Banzhaf’s biggest liability.

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