José Bové

José Bové (2013)

Joseph (José) Bové (born 11 June 1953 in Talence, Gironde) is a French farmer, politician and syndicalist, member of the alter-globalization movement, and spokesman for Via Campesina. He was one of the twelve official candidates in the 2007 French presidential election[1] and he served as a member of the European Greens between 2009 and 2014.

Early life

José Bové (Paris, May 2005)

Bové was born in Talence, near Bordeaux, but raised in many different places, both inside and outside France, including the United States. Bové speaks English fluently, having followed his parents to Berkeley, California at the age of three, when they were invited to be researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bové attended a Jesuit secondary school near Paris (from which he was expelled for being "faithless"). While at university, he associated with anarchists and pacifists. When asked to serve in the army, he fled France.

Anti-military activist

In 1976 Bové joined the Fight for the Larzac, a movement protesting the proposed expansion of a military camp on the Larzac plateau, which would have displaced sheep farmers. He joined a band of peasants occupying the threatened territory and illegally building a sheep barn. The protest eventually succeeded and the military plan was cancelled. As a result of that experience he became a sheep farmer, producing Roquefort cheese on the Larzac.

Agricultural unionist

Bové remained a farmer and an activist. In 1987, he formed the Confédération Paysanne, an agricultural union that places its highest political values on humans and the environment, promoting organic farming. In opposition to many companies in the profit-oriented agro-industry, Bové is a prominent opponent of genetically modified organisms. In 1995 he joined Greenpeace on their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in opposition to nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific Ocean. He has also been part of the anarchist organization Alternative Libertaire.

The event which brought Bové and the Confédération to the foreground was the dismantling of a McDonald's franchise that was under construction in Millau (Aveyron) in 1999.[2] Considered by his supporters to be non-violent, the act was designed as a reaction to the US restrictions on the importation of Roquefort cheese and other products, which were harming the farmers who live from these products, and to raise awareness about McDonald's' use of hormone-treated beef. Bové was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for his role in the incident; he was imprisoned for 44 days and released on 1 August 2002. His involvement in this incident garnered worldwide attention for himself and his causes.

Later, the European Union imposed restrictions on importing hormone-treated beef (see Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement). However, the WTO, of which both the US and France are members, disallowed this restriction. After the EU refused to comply and remove the restrictions, the United States placed tariffs on the importation of certain European goods, including Roquefort cheese, as punishment. José Bové is a producer of this cheese.

In one of his books, Bové tells the story of how he successfully travelled to the United States with thirty kilograms of Roquefort in his luggage.

Alter-globalization activist

José Bové at an anti-GMO protest in March 2006

During an interview by Lynn Jeffress for Z magazine in June 2001, Bové explained why he destroyed a McDonald's by saying: "This is a fight against free trade global capitalism. It's about the logic of a certain economic system, not an American system. It can be a struggle against any country, this one or that one."[3]

Indeed, José Bové has participated in numerous anti-globalization movements. In 1995, he participated in the Pacific Ocean in the operation conducted by Greenpeace against the resumption of nuclear testing. In June 1997 he took part in the first anti-GM mowing. In August 1999 he participated in the dismantling of a McDonald's under construction in Millau, whose exceptional media coverage will make José Bové a figure known to the general public. The same year, he was present at the protests in 1999 Seattle against the World Trade Organization meeting. José Bové then became a symbol of anti-globalization.[4]

Since then, he has redoubled his efforts in the world peasant and anti-globalization movements. He has stated (LCI French TV channel, 12 September 2005 and his book Le monde n'est pas une marchandise) that he is not against the existence of WTO and global rules. On the contrary, he agrees to the need for common global rules. His resistance, as stated by his followers, is directed towards the absence of democracy in the approval of rules and their content. It could be his protectionist attitude ("food sovereignty") that has tagged him as an "anti-globalization" activist, even though his supporters state that he is not against globalization per se, but for an alternative kind of globalization (alter-globalization).

In 2001 he took part in a major action destroying genetically modified crops in Brazil.

He campaigned for a "No" vote in the French referendum on the EU Constitution in 2005 (the proposal was defeated).

Bové is a founding member of ATTAC.[5]


In April 2002 he was at the head of an activist group arriving in the West Bank to protest the massive Israeli Army operation conducted at that time that caused many Palestinian casualties ("Operation Defensive Shield" in official Israeli terminology).

This culminated with the group entering Yassir Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, at the time besieged by Israeli forces. Bové joined with members of the then newly established International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who were at the time maintaining an ongoing presence at the Palestinian Presidential Compound as "human shields" to deter the army from breaking in.

After spending a day in the besieged headquarters, where he and the others in his group were very cordially received, Bové came out and was promptly arrested and deported by Israeli police. Upon his return to France, dozens of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators scuffled briefly at Paris' Orly airport.

Subsequently, in an interview with TV channel Canal Plus, Bové stated that the wave of attacks against French synagogues then underway was being either arranged or fabricated by Mossad (the Israeli secret service). "Who profits from the crime?" Bové asked. "The Israeli government and its secret services have an interest in creating a certain psychosis, in making believe that there is a climate of antisemitism in France, in order to distract attention from what they are doing." [6] He later apologized for the statement.[7] His visit to Arafat was denounced in a speech by the head of France's CRIF umbrella group for Jewish organisations.[8]

Bové has also intervened to support the movements of the Tahitians and the Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia. On 23 April 2004 Jose Bové announced that he would join the People's Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel), a group which is on the European Union's and United States State Department's lists of terrorist groups.

Criminal convictions

In 1976, Bové was sentenced and served three weeks of imprisonment for having destroyed documents belonging to the military, as a way to oppose the extension of Larzac military camp.[9]

In 2002, Bové was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for his role in the destruction of a McDonald's franchise in Millau, Aveyron, in 1999. He was imprisoned for 44 days and released on 1 August 2002.

On 22 June 2003 Bové began serving a sentence of ten months for the destruction of transgenic crops. ATTAC protested and called for him to be freed. A general pardon for Bastille Day, plus an individual action by President Jacques Chirac, reduced the sentence to seven months. Supporters and opponents expressed dissatisfaction with the Presidential pardon on the grounds that it was entirely inadequate and wholly unjustified, respectively. On 15 November 2005 the Toulouse court of appeals sentenced Bové to 4 months in jail for having destroyed genetically engineered corn from a field. Other defendants, such as Noël Mamère, got suspended sentences.[10]

In February 2006, Bové was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at New York's JFK Airport as he arrived en route to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for events sponsored by Cornell's Global Labor Institute. According to Bové, the Customs agents told him he was "ineligible" to enter the U.S. due to his past prosecutions for "moral crimes". After being detained for several hours, Bové was placed on an Air France flight to Paris.[2]

On 11 October 2016, Bové was denied entry to Canada because of his past actions, notably against McDonald's,[11] though he was subsequently allowed to stay in the country for 7 days.[12]

Political life

15 April 2007 electoral meeting in Paris

Following an appeal from his supporters who got 40,000 signatures, in January 2007, Bové announced he would run in the 2007 French presidential election. He formally declared on 1 February and managed in six weeks to obtain the 500 signatures from elected officials necessary for being a candidate. He declared he was fighting for "the people that have no voice". He considered himself to be defending the need for unity on the radical left and aiming to defeat the right and the far right, which had recently gained popularity. He was endorsed by internationally renowned actress Juliette Binoche.[13] On 19 March it was announced that he had secured the support necessary to reach the second stage, actually being listed on the ballot, alongside 11 other contenders. On the first round of the presidential election, Bové scored 1.32% of the popular vote (483,008 votes).[14]

Following the French presidential elections, Bové became more closely associated with Europe Écologie, a coalition of French environmentalist political parties including the Green Party. In the 2009 European Parliament election, he headed the list of candidates for the South-West constituency. On 7 June 2009 he was elected to the European Parliament, as Europe Ecologie garnered over 16% of the vote in a proportional election system.[15]


In English translation

In French


  1. "No shocks as 12 candidates qualify for French vote". Reuters. 2007-03-20.
  2. 1 2 "Jose Bove's Not Welcome in Bush's USA". Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  3. "A World Struggle Is Underway". Retrieved 2001-06-13.
  5. "ATTAC founding members" (in French). Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  6. "("Liberte, Egalite, Judeophobie")". Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  7. "Fin de campagne". 2004-02-27. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  8. Reuters. "1 Ha'aretz report of speech by Roger Cukierman, head of CRIF". Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  9. "Biographie José Bové" (in French). Le Point.
  10. e-TF1. "Infos en direct et en vidéo, l'actualité en temps réel -". Retrieved 2010-06-13.
  11. Lortie, Marie-Claude; Perron, Louis-Samuel. "Le député européen José Bové interdit d'entrer au Canada". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  12. Arsenault, Julien. "José Bové pourra rester au Canada sept jours". La Presse (in French). Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  13. "Bobo-démago : Binoche aime Bové". Novopress. Rivarol (magazine). April 6, 2007.
  14. BBC News Articles 1 February and 19 March 2007
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