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French Farmer-Activist José Bové on Paris Protest Ban: “We are in Prison in Our Own Home”

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Among those who took to the streets of Paris in protest Sunday was the French farmer, activist and politician José Bové, one of the world’s leading critics of corporate globalization and genetically modified organisms. Bové is a sheep farmer who became famous for helping to destroy a McDonald’s under construction in France to protest trade policies that hurt small farmers. He is also a member of the European Parliament. Bové joins us to discuss France’s ban on protests in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and what’s at stake at the United Nations summit on climate change.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from Paris, France, from inside the U.N. climate summit. Among those who took to the streets this weekend, of Paris, in peaceful protest Sunday was French farmer, activist and politician José Bové, one of the world’s leading critics of corporate globalization and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Bové is a sheep farmer who became famous for helping to destroy a McDonald’s under construction in France to protest trade policies that hurt small farmers. In 2009, he was elected to the European Parliament. I caught up with him in the streets of Paris on Sunday.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: My name is José Bové. I’m at this moment European deputy.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are your thoughts on the U.N. COP and what’s coming out of this climate summit in Paris?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: Well, I’m not sure that this summit is going to reach what we need, because all the governments, they want to stay in their own way to go. And the big companies are there also supporting the summit, and they don’t want to change anything. That’s why, for the moment, like, for example, I’m here with the Indians from Ecuador, which are fighting against Exxon and all the big companies. And in this moment, the companies, they don’t want to change anything. So we know clearly that if we don’t keep the oil inside of the Earth and we still use it, we’re not going to be able to change. That’s why we say, clearly, that it’s not the climate that we have to change, it’s the system.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a Frenchman. The major climate march was canceled after the terror attacks of November 13th. Do you think the environmental activists should have marched anyway?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: Well, I think that the alternative we built with this human chain was a good thing to say it’s not because the demonstration was stopped, was forbidden, that we’re not going to do something. And so, this is the beginning, and which we’re doing these two weeks. Many demonstrations are going to be going on, not maybe big ones, but we don’t know, because we have now to make pressure.

We a big problem with the French government in this moment, because, since now a few days, they arrested several people from the movements, the movements which are fighting against climate change. They have been arrested. People have been their house opened by the police. And some of them now are not allowed to go in the street, have to stay in their home. They are in prison in their own home. This is a scandal, because they use the laws which has been put on against the terrorists to fight now against the social movement. This is not acceptable. So that’s why we are also here to say this has to change. This is not—we’re not going to accept this. And if we have to go in the street, if we have to make some demonstrations, we’ll do it, even if it’s forbidden.

AMY GOODMAN: And France’s policies around climate change?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: Well, the problem—we have a big problem in Europe. Europe is not at the level it should be. We should be now in the front line. But, unfortunately, we have also big companies. And the governments are now behind these companies—Total and all the nuclear companies, industrial agriculture, which is pushing very strong in France and at the European level. So, even what the European Union said, we have to get lower using of carbon, in fact, this is still not enough. We know this is just the minimum of the minimum, but it’s not going to stop, unfortunately, the climate problem.

AMY GOODMAN: You became the poster boy of anti-corporate activism in 1999, the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Explain what you did here in the south of France.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: Well, it’s very simple. What I—in 1999, you know, we were—it was the beginning of WTO. And Europe refused to bring, coming from United States, beef treated by hormones, which is used in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Beef treated by hormones.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: Yeah, beef treated by hormones. This is forbidden in Europe, because we had a big social fight to forbid, because it’s a dangerous carcinogen. So we say we’re not allowed. We blocked this beef coming inside, and WTO gave to United States the capacity to put sanctions against 60 European products, and that—and compensation, because they couldn’t have their market. That’s why—one of these products was the Roquefort cheese, which we do in my region. And we said, “OK, we’re not allowed to serve this Roquefort cheese, because we refuse to let in the beef treated by hormone. OK, that’s not a problem. But your junk food is not also going to come in.” That’s why dismantled a McDonald’s, which was in building—they were building it in France, in Millau, at that moment. And that was a very big mess.

AMY GOODMAN: So you dismantled the golden arches. And where did you put them?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: No, more the—even the—not only that. All the—

AMY GOODMAN: The building.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: The building, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did you put it?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: And we put it in the administration house, and said, “Now you keep all this stuff here. And when they stop with the fact that they want to bring beef treated with hormones, we’ll—you can give them back.”

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to you for doing this?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: I was in jail. I was arrested. I went to jail, and I was sentenced for several months of jail. I went to Seattle, and we made a very huge demonstration, lots of demonstration.

AMY GOODMAN: Outside the McDonald’s there.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: And just in front of the McDonald’s in the center of Seattle, we distribute more than 500 kilos of Roquefort cheese. And it was a very big joke, very funny thing. And Danielle Mitterrand, which was the wife of François Mitterrand—

AMY GOODMAN: The president.

JOSÉ BOVÉ: —was with us to distribute the Roquefort. And it was very funny. And we made a lot of funny things. Unfortunately, since that moment, since 2006 now, I’m not allowed to go back to the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re banned?

JOSÉ BOVÉ: I’m banned. I’ve been put out by plane. They kick—when I came back—I came back in 2004. I was allowed to go. But in 2006, the Bush administration said, “No, this guy is not allowed to come back anymore.” The problem is that you have ALÉNA, the ALÉNA treaty with here Canada and Mexico, the economic treaty. That means that also—


JOSÉ BOVÉ: Yeah, yeah. Mexico says, “You’re not allowed also to go in,” and Canada, the same. As the fact that Canada says, “You’re not allowed to come in,” Australia, New Zealand said the same. So now I’m forbidden from a lot of countries, because the American administration told me in 2006 that I had been sentenced for moral turpitude. And I say, “What is moral turpitude?” On the green card, when you go inside the United States, they said very few words: “Moral turpitude. You’re not allowed.” I said, “What is that?” They say, “You attack the economic interest of their companies.” And that’s why I—and the Obama administration didn’t change anything. So, even now, I’m a European deputy. I’m still not allowed to go inside the United States, the moment where we are discussing of this big stupid treaty between the United States and Europe. This is quite incredible.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s French farmer, activist and politician, member of the European Parliament, José Bové, one of the world’s leading critics of corporate globalization. José Bové attended the WTO protests in 1999. Today is the 16th anniversary of the Battle of Seattle.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report When we come back, Naomi Klein joins us live here at the U.N. climate summit here in Paris, France. Stay with us.

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