Radical French Farmer Found Guilty of Vandalizing McDonald’s Restaurant

ByElaine Ganley

M I L L A U, France, Sept. 13, 2000 -- A French sheep farmer who became a folk hero by vandalizing a McDonald’s last year was convicted todayfor the attack and sentenced to three months in prison.

Jose Bove has become an international figure since he and hiscodefendants partially dismantled a McDonald’s under constructionin the southern town of Millau on Aug. 12, 1999. He insistedtoday that his conviction would not dampen his fight against rampant globalization.

The sentence exceeded what prosecutors sought against Bove, whowill likely spend two months in prison because of time alreadyserved. The court in Millau handed Bove’s co-defendants punishments ranging from $265 fines to two-month suspended sentences. One was acquitted.

“The fight is going on,” Bove said. “If I have to go to jail,that’s not a problem for me.”

Country Fair Atmosphere

The two-day trial of Bove and his nine comrades, held thissummer, drew some 15,000 people in a country fair atmosphere, with Bove brought to the Millau courthouse in an ox cart amid cheering crowds.

But the scene at the rendering of the verdict was a sharpcontrast — underscoring the legal line on just how far activistslike Bove can go in their protests against what they call the“McDomination” of the world.

Police erected metal barriers around the courthouse, and therewere no large crowds. Hours ahead of the verdict, Bove, wearingjeans and sandals, milled around with friends and supporters at acafe near the courthouse. “I’m neither anxious nor concerned,” hesaid.

Earlier in a telephone interview, Bove said the “action againstMcDonald’s was justified.”

“Whatever the judgment, we will certainly appeal,” he said.

Reactions to U.S. Sanctions

The mustachioed Bove led the attack on the McDonald’s to protestU.S. sanctions on European delicacies, from foie gras to Roquefort cheese — some of it made from milk supplied by Bove’s flock. The sanctions were to punish the European Union for refusing to import American hormone-treated beef.

He and his co-defendents faced up to five years in prison.Prosecutor Alain Durand had asked the court to sentence Bove to 10months in prison, with nine months suspended. He asked forthree-months suspended sentences for the other nine.

Bove, who coined a new French term — “mal bouffe” (bad eats) …is nicknamed “Robin Hood” by admirers. He has gainedinternational stature defending small farmers against what they seeas the encroachment on their way of life by multinationalsproducing artificial food.

“I think justice made a mistake putting me in prison … Itgave more voice to our movement,” he said, adding that the trialwas “very positive.”

‘Should We Canonize Jose Bove?’

“We’ll continue the destruction of OGM fields,” he said,referring to genetically altered crops, “and we’ll go huntingabroad … to push the multinationals back.”

The June 30 trial only embellished Bove’s reputation. His$17,000 bail was paid for by farmers’ groups and activists aroundthe world. He drew headlines at the raucous World TradeOrganization meeting in Seattle last November, where he took partin a counter-summit.

“Should We Canonize Jose Bove?” read the cover of a recentedition of the French news weekly Marianne.

Bove says his action aimed against the “McDomination” of theworld, a term he uses to refer to the standardization of foodsthat, he contends, has transformed the fruits of the Earth into onemore mass product.

But he insists he is not against globalization, but wants toinject it with a dose of ethics so that small farmers, be theysheep farmers like himself or rice growers in the Philippines, cansurvive.

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