José Bové is a renowned conservationist and anti-globalization movement activist. He is considered a symbol and a hero of a fair struggle for some and an arrogant vandal and criminal by others. In 2014, the sometimes called “indomitable Gaul” of the environmentalism, who has a vast story of spectacular actions and troubles with the law, is co-candidate for the European Green Party to the Presidency of the European Commission.
He is the son of a prestigious agronomist and a professor of natural sciences. When he was student he attended antimilitarists and libertarian environments and he took part in the May ’68 movement, he refused to invoke conscientious objection and defected from the compulsory military service.
He participated actively in the protests of small farmers against the extention of the polygon that the French Army had in Larzac, in the department of Averyon, northwest of Midi-Pyrénées, which lasted the entire decade of the seventies and kept in check the Ministry of Defence until François Mitterrand, who personally knew Bové, shelved expropriations pasture for military use in 1981. His struggle, civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance cost him many convictions and temporary stays in prison.
In 1976 Bové and his family settled illegally in an abandoned agricultural farm state property called Le hameau de Montredon. There, they rehabilitated an old sheep farm, opened a Roquefort business and recreated the life of self-sufficient farmers.
In the eighties, Bové channelled his combativeness in the agricultural unionism. He promoted the anarchist-inspired guild field CNSTP and in 1987 he was one of the founders, and secretary and spokesman of the Confédération Paysanne, which advocated for traditional production methods on organic agriculture, and therefore, contrary to mercantilism and intensive processes of the agro-food industry. In 1993, he became the spokesman of the transnational movement Vía Campesina.
Since 1995, Bové expanded his activism to the world stage and added to its agenda a variety of militant causes coinciding with the rise of opposition movements to the processes of cultural and commercial globalization. He became very popular among the environmentalists when protesting against the nuclear tests ordered by President Jacques Chirac in the Pacific Ocean aboard of the Rainbow Warrior, the flagship of Greenpeace.
He also launched a personal crusade against GMOs, to the point of assaulting seed stores and fields of genetically modified crops to destroy “laboratory” plantations, with the consequent court convictions, fines, penalties and prison sentences. Moreover, in 1998, he joined Bernard Cassen, Susan George and other intellectuals when they launched ATTAC, the association that claims for democratic control of financial markets and the implementation of the Tobin Tax to capital flows.
However, the action which would bring him international fame occurred in August 1999. He attacked together with various unionists of the dairy industry a McDonald’s establishment in construction.
Bové and his companions justified the attack as a protest against the strong tariffs in imports of Roquefort cheese and other European agricultural products by the United States, a retaliatory action that had been approved by the WTO. He also participated in the great protest of Seattle in 1999 against the WTO, in Davos 2000 against the World Economic Forum and in Geneva 2001 against the G8. In 2001 he also attended the first Social World Forum organized in Porto Alegre by ATTAC and Lula da Sila’s Worker’s Party.
Until the end of the nineties, he kept travelling around the world taking part in several popular campaigns and divulgating the concept of “food sovereignty”, conceived as a new kind of Human Right which affects the exploitation patterns and agricultural biodiversity marketing criteria, environmental sustainability, protection of domestic markets, preservation of the rights of peoples and respect for the consumer.
Bové had also time for political protests, like the one in 2002 that led him to the West Bank to repudiate the Israeli Army operations against Palestinians and even offering himself as a human shield to Yasser Arafat.
In 2005 he got deeply involved in French politics campaigning for the NO on the ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty, which he loathed for its “ultra-liberal” and “anti-social” character. The success of this campaign encouraged him to run for no less than the Presidency of the Republic in the 2007 elections. The incapability to reach an agreement between the Communists and other trends of the extreme left made Bové to contend on his own and lost against Nicolas Sarkozy. His candidacy brushed half a million votes, 1,3% of the total.
In 2008, he joined Europe Écologie, the new green coalition project lead by Daniel Cohn-Benedit to run in the elections to the EP in 2009. With 16,6% of the votes and 14 seats, including himself, Europe Écologie doubled the results obtained in 2004 by les Verts, the leading French Green Party until then, becoming the third preferred by the French electorate after Sarkozy’s UMP and Hollande’s Socialist Party.
Once in the Parliament, Bové became part of the Group of the Greens / European Free Alliance. Bové got very involved in the financing, management, and monitoring of the Common Agricultural Policy as vice president of the Parliamentary Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development. He claimed for more ambitious goals when fighting against climatic change and energy policy.
Europe Écologie and Les Verts (EELV) agreed to fuse themselves in the Europe Écologie Les Verts movement. He entered the Executive Bureau as head of the international section.
In September 2013, the EELV designated Bové as its candidate to the open online primary elections that were going to be held to choose two candidates for the Green European Party to the Presidency of the Commission.
Ska Keller won the primary elections obtaining only 65 more votes than him. The Green European Party proclaimed both co-candidates and co-leaders of its campaign for the May 2014 elections. Furthermore, Bové was again the head of the list for his southeast national constituency.
He describes himself as a farmer for Europe. He announced a campaign “in defence of a Europe that protects men and women from the globalization that is destroying jobs and environment”. “Austerity has been an option and has been a failure. Join the Greens for a future Europe with quality jobs that fights against global warming and for social inequities” he proclaimed in his manifesto.
He is the author of several books, some of them coauthored: Nous sommes en marche avec Europe Ecologie (vol. 1) (2010); Du Larzac à Bruxelles (2011, book of interviews); Des écologistes en politique (2011); and Changeons de cap, changeons de Pac!. Vers une agriculture paysanne au service des citoyens (2012) among many others.
In 2014, he published Hold-up à Bruxelles. Les lobbies au coeur de l'Europe denouncing the “organized looting” of the EU by certain groups and multinational economic powers, in particular, he said, the energy, food, tobacco, and agrochemical sectors.
(Update to April 2014)