Letter From Langdon: Bedfellows
[imgbelt img=chipandtom1967.jpg]Some people may think it’s strange that the Nebraska Farmers Union and the Humane Society of the United States have found some areas of agreement. Not me.
[imgcontainer left] [img:Hansen.jpeg] Here’s John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, speaking at a rally against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Hansen has made a pact with the Humane Society that could benefit family farms. But, talk about strange bedfellows….farmers and the HSUS!
When I was a kid growing up on the big river bottom I had a couple of pets that fought like you might expect. Chip the Chesapeake retriever and Tom the barn cat never saw eye to eye at feeding time.
To the victor went the leftovers.
But on cold winter nights, adversaries became allies as cat curled up with dog to ward off the chill with a warm bargain.
My family called them strange bedfellows.
Shakespeare borrowed bedfellows from a Greek tragedy to describe people who set aside their differences toward a common goal. Whether in midsummer’s dreams, cold Missouri winters, or on Wall Street, we can all occasionally do that.
Sometimes that’s life; Strange–but true.
Sharp claws, pointy teeth and the wounds they’ve caused can be overlooked, even justified, when memories are short and need is great. We see it all the time in politics, as candidates decide whether to bite and claw or just shack up together. But we also see it in the country as cats and dogs join forces against the cold…or a foe.
In just this kind of strange twist, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is now seen as a savior by some family livestock farms battling big farms and corporations for market share and profits. They hope that partnering with an animal welfare charity will highlight better living conditions for livestock on family farms.
It’s an interesting story. Confrontation-minded HSUS once passed animal welfare laws in a half dozen states, such as Ohio, that drove farmers crazy. Then the Humane Society waded in west of the Mississippi and met its Waterloo in Missouri. The HSUS helped pass a ballot initiative targeting dog breeders, thanks to votes in Kansas City and St Louis. Out in rural Missouri HSUS lost 2 to 1.
That’s when the Republican General Assembly joined forces with the Democratic governor to rewrite what they called the “puppy mill bill.”
So it raised a few eyebrows when Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen and a former Missouri Lieutenant Governor, Joe Maxwell, agreed to work with HSUS toward a common goal.
Maxwell, with farm roots four generations deep, says corporate dominated agriculture is putting guys like him out of business. Hansen agrees. And both watched proposed federal rules guaranteeing competitive livestock markets fail under corporate opposition (aided by a Congress and an administration unwilling to fight for them).
Hansen and Maxwell came to the conclusion that family farmers and the HSUS might form a common bond. They figured that farmers with humane livestock practices have something to offer animal welfare conscious consumers who eat meat but also support work done by groups like HSUS.
[imgcontainer left] [img:chipandtom1967.jpg] [source]Richard OswaldThe original strange bedfellows, Chip and dog and Tom the cat, in 1967. When the nights grew cold, they found agreement.