Bové Relishes a Second Bite
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Published on Sunday, August 12, 2001 in the Observer of
Bové Relishes a Second Bite
France's Favorite Food Campaigner is Back at His Most Famous
by Stuart Jeffries in Millau, France
Men with big mustaches and women with deep peasant tans
rolled into this bucolic town on their tractors yesterday to
make a stand for French food and to condemn the United
States' tariffs on Gallic delicacies.
Truffle producers, Roquefort cheese and foie gras makers,
shallot growers and goat farmers were joined by a motley
crew of anti-globalization campaigners who camped on the
town's rugby pitch.
They have been called here by the man with the biggest
mustache of all, sheep farmer-cum-globetrotting media
celebrity José Bové. Two years after he and some like-minded
campaigners from the French small farmers' union, the
Confédération Paysanne, vandalized Millau's branch of
McDonald's, the pipe-smoking activist has organized a mass
rally outside the same burger joint.
Today the tractors will form a blockade outside McDonald's
in what is intended to be a peaceful protest. Some 250 CRS
riot police will be on hand, though Bové - now a veteran of
anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle and Genoa -
doubts there will be violence. 'Millau is not Genoa,' he
said. 'There's no reason that there should be problems. This
time we don't intend to put a foot inside McDonald's. The
police will be here and we won't fight them.'
But with a town of 20,000 swollen for the weekend to nearly
double that number by arriving protesters, Millau's police
know they have to be vigilant.
The rally has been called to highlight the fact that in the
two years since Bové's symbolic protest against what he
called ' la malbouffe americaine ' (crap American food),
small French farmers are still suffering from a 100 per cent
US tariff imposed on delicacies such as foie Gras and
In 1999, Bové was furious about this, not least because he
makes Roquefort from his sheep's milk. But, more
importantly, he recognized that the US - backed by the World
Trade Organization - had slapped tariffs on European
products in revenge for the European Community banning
hormone- injected US beef imports. At the same time in
August 1999, a branch of McDonald's was being built in
Incensed by this symbolic inroad into la France profonde,
which he regards as one of the last bastions against
unwholesome agriculture, Bové and some colleagues called the
local police and warned them they were going to vandalize
the restaurant. He was arrested as a result of his action.
Two years on, the US duty is still in force and French
farmers are feeling the pinch. The Roquefort Makers'
Federation claims its US sales have fallen by 30 per cent.
Yesterday, holidaymakers heading for the beaches of the
South of France joined with arriving protesters to cause
gridlock outside Millau, France's glove-making capital.
The town was dominated by talk of Bové's rally. Marc Dehani,
the manager of the Millau McDonald's, had not decided
whether he will open his restaurant today, but said angrily:
'If I do close, it won't be Bové who pays my 50 employees.'
Dehani said he met Bové once. 'There was no reasoning with
him. He has his ideas, full stop. It's not very democratic.'
Dehani defended McDonald's against Bové's attacks: 'We work
as partners with French agriculture. We buy French, and
serve one million meals a day.'
But for Bové and his supporters McDonald's exemplifies the
inexorable march of globalization and multinationals, with
all their threats to the small producer.
'For me, malbouffe means both the standardization of food -
the same taste from one end of the world to the other - and
the choice of food associated with the use of hormones and
GMOs,' he says. 'The food industry regards the farmer as
merely the supplier of raw commodities to meet the need of
the manufacturers, rather than those of the consumer.'
These days Bové spends most of his time campaigning against
globalization and soulless agriculture rather than rearing
Two weeks ago he was placed under investigation for
allegedly libeling French animal feed makers, claiming they
bought feed infected with mad cow disease from the UK. It is
the latest in a long line of legal wrangles for Bové, who
has a 10-month suspended jail term hanging over him for
destroying genetically altered plants in southern France.
News for Anarchists & Activists:
"It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
*anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
-- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
_Detective Comics_ #608