McDonalds Pays Up to Hindu Veggie Groups

Four years after lawyer Harish Bharti sued the fast food giant for misleading customers by claiming their French fries were vegetarian, McDonald’s mailed out the cheques, in addition to the apology it issued in March 2002

Several Hindu and vegetarian groups in the United States had a happy surprise in the mail last week.

Healthy cheques for sums ranging from $50,000 to $1.4 million — part of the $10 million court-ordered settlement in the case involving their beef against McDonald’s.

Some four years after Seattle-based Indian-American lawyer Harish Bharti sued the fast food giant for misleading customers by claiming their French fries were vegetarian, McDonald’s mailed out the cheques, in addition to the apology it issued in March 2002.

The money, McDonald’s said, will go “to Hindu, vegetarian and other groups whose charitable and educational activities are closely linked to the concerns of these consumers (having dietary restrictions).”

Among the groups that benefited from the class-action bonanza are International/American Gita Society, which got $50,000; Hinduism Today Endowment, $250,000; Supporting Excellence in Education, $900,000; Council of Hindu Temples of North America $200,000; SSV Temple, $50,000; and Hindu Students Council, $500,000.

Vegetarian groups that were awarded include Vegetarian Resource Group ($1.4 milion), ADAF Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group ($600,000), Preventive Medicine Research Institute ($550,000), North American Vegetarian Society ($1 million) Vegetarian Vision, Inc.,($250,000); and American Vegan Society, $500,000.

They are among the 24 groups selected to receive compensation from over 250 groups that were initially considered under the terms of the settlement.

Also among the beneficiaries were Jewish, Muslim and Sikh groups which joined the lawsuit claiming that the fries were not kosher/halal etc.

“It was quite a surprise,” said Paramacharya Palaniswami of the Hindu Monastery in Kaui, Hawaii, which received a check for $ 254,773.19 drawn on Chicago’s Banco Popular. “I guess we will be inspired to do more things for vegetarianism.”

As a first step, the monastery plans to place the amount in an endowment for publication of its Hinduism Today magazine.

None of the principle will be touched, so that it will be a perpetual source for funding outright 1,000 or more free subscriptions a year forever, or subsidize a larger number, the Paramacharya told TNN in an interview from Hawaii.

He also said the “the supersized endowment will educate Americans, especially youth, about the merits of a veggie lifestyle, which has been a Hindu ideal for 6,000 years.”

The victorious groups have however asked customers to take note of the fact that McDonald’s made no changes in their fries, which still have beef-flavoring.

Under the terms of the settlement, McDonald’s is only required to make a better disclosure, not change the way its fries are made.

“Sure, the oil is vegetable. But make no mistake about it. There is meat in those luscious Golden Arches french fries,” Paramacharya Palaniswami said.

Attorney Harish Bharti did not return calls seeking comment.

Author: Chidanand Rajghatta

News Service: Times of India

URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1168727.cms