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Joseph (José) Bové (born June 11, 1953 in Talence, Gironde) is a French farmer 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. On 7 June 2009, he was elected to the European Parliament as a member of Europe Écologie, a coalition of French environmentalist political parties.
Early lifeBové 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.
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.
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 also has 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. 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 peasants 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 August 1, 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.
Since then, he has redoubled his efforts in the world peasant and anti-globalization movements. He has stated (LCI French TV channel, September 12, 2005 and book Le monde n’est pas une marchandise) that he is not against the existence of WTO and global rules. On the contrary, he has agreed 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).
He campaigned for a «No» vote in the French referendum on the EU Constitution in 2005 (the proposal was defeated).