As French folk heroes go, central casting could hardly have done better than Jose Bove. The 47-year-old pipe-smoking sheep farmer rocketed to fame last Aug. 12, when he and other activists were arrested for trashing the site of a new McDonald's. Bove's attack on "la malbouffe"--industrialized bad food--struck a chord with many French who fear globalization's impact on their traditions, language, and cuisine. Later, Bove was in Seattle disrupting the proceedings of the World Trade Organization. Globalization, he says, "is a planetary dictatorship. If you are not part of the market, you don't exist."
A sophisticated militant who once led student strikes at his school near Paris, Bove is clearly riding the right cause at the right time. Food scares like mad cow disease have struck a nerve in the European psyche. Even though Bove's tirades against free trade are far from the mainstream, politicians are unwilling to criticize him openly. Bove is not likely to fade away soon.