Greenpeace defends Amazon rainforest against McDonald's, others, 2006


To pressure McDonald's and Cargill, as well as the food industry at large, to cease using soya in chicken feed.

Time period notes

Although Greenpeace's official campaign began in 2006, the group had begun research on McDonald's in 2003.

Time period

6 April, 2006 to 26 July, 2006


United Kingdom

Location City/State/Province


Location Description

McDonald's restaurants across the United Kingdom
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Greenpeace published two reports on McDonald's regarding its use of soya.
  • Greenpeace published and posted flyers that featured a Ronald McDonald, the McDonald's mascot, with a bloody chainsaw.
  • Greenpeace protestors dressed as chickens chained themselves to tables and sat-in at McDonald's around the UK.

Methods in 3rd segment

  • 60 Greenpeace activists protested Cargill's Amsterdam port.
  • Greenpeace members chained themselves to Cargill unloading equipment to prevent the entrance of a shipment of soya.

Methods in 4th segment

  • About 20 Greenpeace members entered Cargill's Amazon port at Santarem to protest the production of soya.
  • Greenpeace protestors invaded Cargill's production port to stall production for three and a half hours.
  • About 8 protestors with Greenpeace went out on a boat to block the port.

Segment Length

Approximately 3 weeks

Notes on Methods

After the first segment, once McDonald's joined forces with Greenpeace, much of the campaign focused on negotiations.


Gavin Edward, John Sauven, Greenpeace


Not known

External allies

McDonald's, while beginning as an opponent, began to support Greenpeace's actions

Involvement of social elites

Not known


McDonald's, Cargill, ASDA, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Brazilian police

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Cargill published a report refuting Greenpeace's claims against the company.

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Police arrests of Greenpeace protestors at Santarem port, Cargill employee violence against Greenpeace protestors at Santarem.





Group characterization


Groups in 1st Segment


Segment Length

Approximately 3 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Greenpeace was able to achieve its goals and see the formation of a soya moratorium, as well as grow to include companies like McDonald's.

Database Narrative

On 6 April 2006, a group of people dressed as large chickens entered McDonald’s fast food restaurants in seven cities around the United Kingdom. These chickens were a part of Greenpeace’s campaign against McDonald’s use of soya, a soybean plant, to feed its chickens.

Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization that began in 1971. Dedicated to protecting the Earth, Greenpeace has focused on raising awareness about global warming, deforestation, and nuclear issues. It has offices in a broad range of countries all over the world and uses direct action, as well as lobbying and research, to incite change. It was their emphasis on research that led Greenpeace to McDonald’s, an international fast-food company.

In 2003, Greenpeace began an investigation on McDonald’s because it was curious as to how the company fed the chickens that it used in its food. Greenpeace members traced the production of McDonald’s food to the Amazon. These activists looked at satellite images of the Amazon, aerial surveillance, and government documents tracking shipping. It was in conducting this research that Greenpeace discovered McDonald’s ties to soya production in the Amazon. Greenpeace members learned that McDonald’s was buying soya from producers in the Amazon.

Upon this discovery, Greenpeace prepared to launch a campaign against McDonald’s. The use of soya for feeding animal is extremely destructive for the Amazon.   According to Greenpeace, much of the soya production in the Amazon at this time was illegal, as producers often neglected land regulations. Every year, the production of this plant would ruin a plot of Amazonian land approximately the size of Wales. Alarmed with the destruction that McDonald’s perpetuated, Greenpeace brought the information on the company to the public.

On 6 April 2006, Greenpeace published a report, “Eating Up the Amazon,” that detailed the soya crisis and its affiliation with McDonald’s. Greenpeace Forests Campaign Coordinator Gavin Edward and Campaign Special Projects Director John Sauven helped facilitate and lead this campaign against McDonald’s. Greenpeace brought the report to newspapers and the online media in order to get the public’s attention. Greenpeace published a second file, a crime report, titled “We’re Trashin’ It! How McDonald’s is eating up the Amazon,” which linked McDonald’s to Cargill, an international grain producer and trader.

In addition to these releases on 6 April 2006, members of Greenpeace went to various McDonald’s restaurants and posted images of Ronald McDonald, the McDonald’s mascot, wielding a chainsaw. The group also had dozens of people in chicken costumes invade McDonald’s restaurants in the United Kingdom and chain themselves to chairs. The purpose of this action was to speak with customers and raise awareness about soya, as well as to show the company that Greenpeace was serious in its campaign against the restaurant’s practices.

Six hours after the campaign began on 6 April 2006, Keith Kenny, senior director of quality assurance for McDonald’s Europe, reached out and called Greenpeace to negotiate. The large chickens of Greenpeace then left the restaurants. The fast-food company agreed to stop using Amazon soya in chicken feed and formed an alliance with Greenpeace to change the industry’s attitude towards the use of soya.

In response to consumer letters in the United Kingdom, McDonald’s publicized its decision to stop selling chicken fed on soya grown in newly deforested areas. This announcement allowed Greenpeace to put pressure on large agricultural traders such as Cargill and Bunge, to stop using soya in chicken feed.

The alliance between McDonald’s, Greenpeace, and various UK supermarkets such as ASDA and Waitrose helped pressure the multinational commodity brokers like Cargill. These retailers wanted Cargill to prove that their soya was not grown on recently deforested land in the Amazon.

On 29 April 2006, sixty Greenpeace activists protested a huge shipment of Cargill’s Amazon soya at an Amsterdam port. These protestors chained themselves to the conveyor belt and suction pump that Cargill used to unload the soya, while other activists painted “Forest Crime” on the company’s silos (large storage structures). Because of these actions, the Greenpeace activists prevented the shipment from entering the European port.

In May of 2006, Cargill published a response to Greenpeace’s report “Eating up the Amazon.” In this report, Cargill wrote that it agreed with Greenpeace in regards to the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Amazon as well as the importance of protecting small landholders and vulnerable persons located near the Amazon. With these statements, Cargill also refuted many of Greenpeace’s claims. The company stated that soy did not occupy much of the land in the Amazon, and that Cargill was trying to use economic development to better both the environment and the Amazonian population. Cargill also claimed that Greenpeace’s campaign against modified soy led to increased soy production in Brazil, particularly near the Amazon.

On 19 May 2006, nearly twenty Greenpeace activists protested Cargill at its Amazon River port in Santarem, Brazil. Eight activists went out on a boat to the port with a large banner that read “Cargill Out.” Video footage captured Cargill workers acting violently towards protestors, pushing them around and using giant hoses with strong water pressure against them. These protestors were able to halt soy operations for three and a half hours, but police arrested sixteen of the activists. In addition to the police repression, local farmers launched a campaign against Greenpeace. Cars and pickup trucks around Santarem had stickers that read “Greenpeace go home. The Amazon is Brazilian,” and forty farmers stormed the Greenpeace ship the Artic Sunrise to harass members that the police were taking away. Cargill denied any connections with these farmers. Following these protests, on 21 May 2006, over a thousand people from Santarem joined Greenpeace in a march to protest Cargill’s production in the Amazon.

Then, on 22 May 2006, to mark the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace members took up action across the globe. In France, eighteen activists closed down a Cargill-owned factory. In Surrey, UK, Greenpeace protestors dumped nearly four tons of soya at the entrance of Cargill’s European Headquarters.

Although Cargill refused to stop production in the Amazon in a meeting with Greenpeace in mid-May of 2006, the company reached out to Greenpeace to begin negotiations later that month. Two months later, on 24 July 2006 the alliance of Greenpeace and European retailers signed a two-year moratorium on multinational traders buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon rainforest.

Greenpeace, once it had successfully negotiated with McDonald’s, was able to institute change within the broader market involved with soya production. In 2008, companies and negotiators renewed the moratorium for an additional year.


Organic Consumers Association. “Greenpeace Protests Against Grain & Meat Gian Cargill for Destroying the Amazon Rainforest.” May 22, 2006.

Powers, Raymond. “Sounding Circle: Greenpeace Activists in Brazil Block Cargill Soy Facility.” September 18, 2006.

Environment News Service. “Greenpeace Links McDonald’s With Amazon Destruction.” April 6, 2006.

McDonald’s Company. “Greenpeace, Brazil & Soya.” n.d.

Rhett, Butler A. “Greenpeace Accuses McDonald’s of Destroying the Amazon Rainforest.” April 7, 2006.

Astor, Michael. “Greenpeace: McDonald’s Harming the Amazon.” USA Today. April 6, 2006.

Bradshaw, Matilda. “Greenpeace Stops Huge Consignment of Amazon Soya Entering Europe.” May 1, 2006.

Food & Water Europe. “Cargill Fact Sheet.” n.d.

Duluth News Tribune. “Greenpeace Activists Arrested in Brazil After Protest At Cargill.” May 19, 2006.

Environmentalist21. “Greenpeace Activists Receive Abuse from Cargill Staff. YouTube.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Aileen Eisenberg, 10/02/2013