ecoglobe [yinyang] news (14 October 1999)

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"How can people try and tell us that we must import hormone-treated beef?"
[ecoglobe:The obvious answer is "because it's good for you." The beef is "hormone-enhanced", not "hormone-treated". Someone fell in the PR trap here. We took the liberty to correct the terminology.]

By SUZANNE DALEY c.1999 N.Y. Times News Service

      MONTREDON, France ... At home here in his 500-year-old stone farmhouse, Jose Bove seems pretty relaxed for someone out on $17,000 bail.
      He moves around in his slippers and turns off his cell phone so he can answer questions without being interrupted. His antique dining-room table is covered with stacks of paper, mostly faxes and printouts from Internet sites. Outside his windows, tucked among the trees, are the other five houses of this village and, beyond them, hundreds of Bove's sheep leisurely picking over the grass.
      Since he was arrested in August on charges of vandalizing a nearby McDonald's building site ... though his principal complaint is about American tariffs on luxury food ... this wiry, 46-year-old union leader and sheep farmer has become something of a national hero.
      Hardly a day goes by that French newspapers fail to mention him, lauding him for his refusal to bow to globalization, running photos of him with his hands clenched above his head and his wrists cuffed, and suggesting that he may be the only man left in France willing to go to jail for the republic.
      He has been praised by France's highest officials, including President Jacques Chirac, who has declared that he, too, ""detests McDonald's food.'' Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has also weighed in, comparing Bove with other noted leaders who have emerged from grass-roots movements in recent years: ""Here again is a strong, vigorous personality,'' Jospin said admiringly.
      At home, however, Bove hardly looks militant. His eyes twinkle over his handlebar mustache when he is asked about all the attention he is getting. ""There was some luck in it,'' he confides. ""The judge threw me into jail. People didn't like that.''
      Bove, who lives in one of France's best-known gastronomic regions, organized the destruction of the McDonald's in nearby Millau ... using tractors to tear down half the roof ... to highlight what he sees as the unfairness of the U.S. decision to impose high tariffs on Roquefort cheese, pate de foie gras and other luxury imported foods. Washington acted in retaliation for the European Union's decision to ban America's hormone-treated beef.
      ""There have been three totalitarian forces in our lifetime,'' said Bove, who supplies sheep milk to cheese makers. ""The totalitarianism of Fascism, of Communism and now of capitalism. How can people try and tell us that we must import hormone-enhanced beef? What is that?''
      But some say that Bove's crusade has tapped into far larger issues gnawing at the French lately, including a general annoyance with the power of the American economy and a nostalgia for a way of life, including long lunches, that is disappearing yet still held in high regard. Every year, new McDonald's franchises open and flourish in France.
      However, few people admit to indulging in those quarter-pounders. ""Spotted under the golden arches, the French often behave as if they just got caught leaving an X-rated movie'' said Jean-Pierre Poulain, a sociologist at the University of Toulouse recently quoted in the newspaper Le Monde.
      Having recovered from Bove's attack in August, the Millau McDonald's was doing brisk business the other day.
      ""I come here only once in a great while,'' said one customer, Laurent Jeniez, who was getting back into his car alone. ""I do it only with my children,'' he added, though none could be seen.
      Yet Millau is awash in pro-Bove graffiti. ""End McDomination'' and ""Free Bove'' are scrawled all over the place.
      Bove himself favors a rhyming slogan that uses the French nickname for McDonald's: ""McDo Dehors, Gardons le Roquefort'' (McDonald's Get Out, Let's Keep the Roquefort). That is what he painted on the McDonald's construction site on Aug. 12.
      He considers his actions that day to be rather ordinary, hardly worth more than a shrug. France, after all, is a country where protesting is a national pastime. The development that really shocked Bove, who heads a small farmers' union called the Confederation Paysanne, was being put in jail five days later.
      ""They never do that,'' he said. ""But there was a young judge and they are independent and they just saw property damage.''
      Bove clinched his moment of fame when he refused to be freed on bail, a stand that lasted only three weeks. He smiles when asked about his change of heart. ""The conditions in there were really bad,'' he said. ""And the food was inedible. And I said to myself, "If all these people are trying to help me by raising the money, why should I refuse to come out?'''
      Bove said his actions had been carefully planned and announced in the paper the day before. ""There was nothing menacing about it,'' he said. ""The children were there. There was singing. It had a festival atmosphere.''
      The owner of the McDonald's, Marc Dehani, sees it a bit differently. He says $120,000 worth of damage was done. Still, McDonald's has chosen not to take any civil action against Bove. The restaurant chain has lately tried to calm protests by issuing statements pointing out that the franchises in France are owned by the French, employ French workers and almost exclusively sell food grown in France.
      In the press, Bove is often described as the last holdout against creeping American imperialism. But he is eager to say that he likes Americans. His parents were researchers who spent years at the University of California at Berkeley studying diseases that attacked citrus trees. Bove lived there until he was 7 and still speaks English.
      Bove said his spell in prison had not lessened his outrage at the luxury-food tariffs, and he intends to travel to Seattle in November, when the World Trade Organization is expected to meet there and consider the issue again. The U.S. actions were authorized by the WTO. [ NYT-10-11-99 2009EDT ]
[Article transcribed and edited from From: "Biotech Activists" Subject: gmos, trade, and farmers Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 05:23:36 -0500 Posted: 10/12/1999 by:]

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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (14 October 1999)

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