Bové is a French syndicalist, a member of the alter-globalization movement and spokesman for Via Campesina.
He was born on 11th June, 1953 in Talence, near Bordeaux, and raised in many different parts of the world, including the United States. Bové speaks English fluently, having gone with his parents to Berkeley, California at the age of three when they became researchers at the University of California.
Back in France, Bové attended a Jesuit secondary school near Paris from which he was expelled for expressing his views about drugs. While at university, he frequented libertarians and pacifists. When asked to serve in the French army he left France.
In 1976 Bové joined the movement protesting against the proposed expansion of the military camp on the Larzac plateau, which would have displaced sheep farmers there. He joined a band of paysans occupying the threatened territory and building a sheep barn. The protest eventually succeeded and the military plan was cancelled. As a result of that experience he became a sheep farmer, producing Roquefort cheese on the Larzac. Bové was sentenced and served three weeks of imprisonment for having destroyed documents belonging to the military, as a way to oppose the extension of Larzac military camp.
Bové remained a farmer and an activist. In 1987, he formed the Confédération Paysanne, an agricultural union that places its highest values on humans and the environment, promoting organic farming. Bové is a prominent opponent of genetically modified organisms. In 1995 he joined Greenpeace on their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, in opposition to nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific Ocean. He also has been part of the anarchist organization Alternative Libertaire. (The French word anarchist translates into English as libertarian rather than anarchist).
The event which brought Bové and the Confédération to prominence was the public dismantling in 1999 of a McDonald's franchise in Millau (Aveyron). This raised awareness about the fact that fast food industry is an outlet for the imported hormone-treated beef. Bové was sentenced to three months imprisonment for his role in the incident and he was imprisoned for 44 days. He was released on August 1, 2002. Since then, he has redoubled his efforts in the world paysan and alter-globalization movements. He has mentioned on several occasions that he is not against the existence of WTO and global rules. On the contrary, he agrees with the need for common global rules. His resistance is directed towards the absence of any element of democracy in agreeing the rules.
He was present at the 1999 protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. In 2001, he took part in a large action destroying genetically modified crops in Brazil. He successfully helped convince the French to vote against a referendum that would have created an EU Constitution. In 2002, he was arrested and deported by Israeli police after meeting Yassir Arafat, who was under detention in his Ramallah headquarters, having taken part in a protest of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Bové has also intervened to support the movements of the Tahitians and the Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia.
On June 22, 2003, Bové began serving a sentence of ten months for the destruction of transgenic crops. ATTAC protested and called for him to be freed. A general pardon for Bastille Day, plus an individual action by President Jacques Chirac, reduced the sentence to seven months. Opponents and supporters both expressed dissatisfaction with the Presidential pardon on different grounds - opponents on the grounds that it was inadequate and supporters on the grounds that it was unjustified.
On April 23, 2004, José Bové announced that he would join the People's Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel), a group which is on the European Union's and United States State Department's lists of terrorist groups. On November 15, 2005, the Toulouse court of appeals sentenced Bové to 4 months in jail for having destroyed genetically engineered corn from a field. Other defendants received suspended sentences. In February, 2006, Bové was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at New York's JFK Airport as he arrived en route to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for events sponsored by Cornell's Global Labor Institute. According to Bové, the Customs agents told him he was "ineligible" to enter the U.S. as the result of his past prosecutions for "moral crimes". After being detained for several hours, Bové was placed on an Air France flight back to Paris. In January 2007, Bové announced he would run in the 2007 French presidential election.