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Temple Grandin: A cow’s best friend?

Filed under: Farmed Animals
Dr. Temple Grandin and cows

Dr. Temple Grandin and cows

Forward reports that Dr. Temple Grandin, autistic animal science professor and author of last year’s bestseller Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism To Decode Animal Behavior, has deemed Kosher slaughterhouse AgriProcessors a “humane” facility. Grandin’s visit falls in the shadow of PETA’s video exposé of cruel conditions in the Iowa slaughterhouse—cows could be seen standing up and walking after their throats had been cut. As the animals struggled and slipped in their own blood, another employee pulled out the trachea and esophagus with a hook.

A spokesman for AgriProcessors denied that Grandin’s investigation had anything to do with PETA’s demands that she visit the faciltiy and offer suggestions for improvement. The spokesman stated that Grandin worked with AgriProcessors back in 1989 when the facility first opened. They had been looking forward to hire her as a consultant for many years and the timing of the consultation is merely a cowinkydink.

The article reports that after watching the rotating pen hang cows upside down and then slit their throats, slaughterhouse workers now listen for signs of consciousness before dumping the cows’ bodies. Grandin used her divine gift of intuition and many years of animal behavior expertise to access the situation: “I didn’t hear any cows mooing,” Grandin said. “When they do things wrong, cows moo.”

Am I wrong to be annoyed by Temple Grandin’s existence? It’s not that I don’t like her. It’s just that I’m irritated by the way people flock to her for answers as thought she were some sort of psychic bridge connecting humans to the minds of animals. Why don’t people take a much shorter leap of faith and listen to the voice in their heads that says all living creatures wanna keep on living, they don’t wanna die in some multi-million dollar “humane” slaughter complex? Is that so hard? Or is it just easier to pay some scientist with an “intimate” connection to animals to convience them that the cow who is now their hamburger died silent and stress-free and that makes everything okay.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    As much as I cringe at factory farms, I have to disagree here.
    Temple, first off is not a vegan or activist and shares no agenda with PETA or any animal rights activists to shut down slaughter houses. As a high level functioning autistic, she is extremely sensitive and can’t relate to humans in a way that we can, but she feels a heightened connection to animals than most humans do. The inventions she made & implemented in nation wide slaughter houses really are less brutal. I’m going with “less brutal” instead of “more humane.” Killing is killing, and since most out-spoken activists (especially the black-labeled PETA which you mentioned here) are not going to be heard in any company responsible for slaughter from sheer bias.

    Dr.Grandin does helps our cause & relieves suffering, even thought it is not to an extreme degree. And she knows & recognizes this, for she does not agree with extremists on either side of the spectrum.

    As for your last paragraph.. it’s kinda hard to assign “wants” to a cow. Obviously there are evolutionary drives, but what does anyone really know about another creatures level of conscious “wanting”? I’m not saying that to be a contradictory jerk, I’m saying that because wanting to preserve humanity towards all walks of life regardless of their level of human-like qualities is a more unbiased and defensible mentality. If vegans are seen as mushy people equating their human feelings with those of animals with much simpler brain function, arguments become somewhat invalidated because it makes veganism seem more like a personal psychological crutch than a global cause.

    Furthermore, I find her (from the sources I’ve read.. who tend to have a strong fascination with her as a person so there’s my bias) a very interesting person. Do you know with her engineering capabilities she designed and built a machine that can hug her with just the right amount of pressure? As an autistic she can’t receive a human hug in a comfortable way, but she has always desired the feeling of being hugged.

    I think it’s a great thing that she had been able to use her “mental illness” to reform things she disagrees with outside of her career. Unlike most people with PhD’s she has used her standing to fight to the level she believes in, for something lower than her education level. It’s commendable, and it does things many animal rights activists cannot accomplish, since politics typically excludes stigmatized opinionated people from attacking the system from the inside out.

    But I do agree with the point your getting at, at the very end. Nothing bugs me more when people buy overpriced cage-free eggs from Whole Foods and satisfy their white guilt or whatever by “doing the right thing.” We shouldn’t be targeting Grandin as the culprit of this misconception, though, and we should look for a legal justice in a way claiming that consumers are being mislead & not getting what they pay for. Having an openly-vegan attack the issue, once again, tends to discredit the issue since vegans are seen, especially by CEOs & government dickwads (like my technical terms?) as way to radical and distorting facts until all the slaughter houses are down. I hope you don’t think that I am undermining the cause with anything I’m saying, I’m just seeing it from an outside angle, I think, & working in the whole “catch flies with sugar” concept.

    That was long. But I hope it made you rethink hating her little existence.

    Plus I’m sure the article that reported that had some incentive from the slaughter house evaluated, just so they could boost their sales.

  2. Comment by


    on #

    You’re a self-righteous bigot against autistic people.

  3. Comment by

    Dara Parsavand

    on #

    I just watched the HBO movie last night and know very little else about Temple Grandin (I was searching when I found this post), but I think one of her lines in the movie is very apropos to this topic. She says something like, “The only reason we have [non-dairy] cows is to kill them for meat, so we owe them some respect and we should try to kill them with less suffering”. I’ve been vegetarian (vegan maybe 1/3 of the time) for almost 30 years and in my perfect world, there would be more wildlife habitat and animals there and almost no domesticated animals (I’m a little hesitant to dismiss certain animal roles like dogs for people needing assistance or avalanche rescue dogs). If this change happened tomorrow, we’d have a lot of animals to do something with for a while until they all die (and are never reproduced). Well that isn’t going to happen so doesn’t it make sense to put some thought into how killing can could be done with less suffering? Sure, advocate for more people being vegan (and realize if everybody did, it’s not like cows would have some idyllic experience, cows as a species would be terminated), but I’m glad someone like Temple Grandin who has an interest in this area, could apply a little scientific thinking and get some results (assuming the movie is somewhat accurate). The fact that she can be an inspiration to other people who have autism is a bonus – her story would have merit even if she wasn’t autistic.

    Dara Parsavand

  4. Comment by


    on #

    I agree with the first comment aside from a few points, first, please do not call Autism a mental illness. There is a difference between mental illness and a developmental disorder (Autism). Sorry I have Asperger’s and three children with various forms of Autism so I just wanted to correct that statement. I also have nothing against anyone with a mental illness as I also have a child (now an adult) with Bi Polar disorder which is a mental illness. Temple Grandin is an inspiration to every person with Autism, she has shown the general public that we are also a part of society and not someone rocking in a corner or that we are all like Rainman. I am a vegetarian (still eat range free eggs from a neighbor who has laying hens) but also not particularly religious about it or try to force it on others. My husband eats meat, that is his choice, I dont agree with it but it is true that my not eating meat is not going to end the slaughter. He still eats a lot of vegi stuff because its what I cook so HAHA! At least people like Dr. Grandin have tried to make things better, so she is DOING. Just by being a vegan you are not making things better for anyone but yourself and you are not stopping the slaughter of animals. However if you are a vegan or a vegetarian and you are doing things like, bringing inhumane practices to light or protesting captivity and abuse and finding ways to end it, then you are DOING something! I do think being an Activist for animal rights is a good thing. I do all that I can to stop whaling and dolphin slaughter and captivity. I do tend to get slightly religious about my Orca so I do understand sometimes this mentality. I think if we all focus on one area of animal abuse and or slaughter that we can make a difference. I think Temple Grandin makes a difference. It may not be in a way that YOU think is right but no one can deny that she has made things better in the slaughter industry.

  5. Comment by

    Nathan McClellan

    on #

    It’s all baby-steps in my opinion. We can only do one thing at time; work on what we can and hope that someone else picks up their own share of the work to go around. Temple Grandin is a huge inspiration for our family and we are newly vegan WITH a son who is “high-functioning” autistic. Like commenter #4 [April] I do not believe that autism is an “illness” either. I cannot speak for anyone who is in touch with a non-verbal autistic person though…Nonetheless, I think that Temple’s contribution is simply ONE step in the right direction, that’s it. She AND anyone else ought to be praised for heading in the correct general direction. She came along and got a famously stubborn industry to budge one tiny bit in the correct direction when nobody else seemed to even be thinking about it in that industry. What do we expect of her? Put on a cape and start freeing them all? Let’s be for real here. She did one small thing right by those animals [which is a huge thing if you ask me] and she deserves credit for that. The rest is like water to a stone. It is only drip by drip or step by step [if we are talking in terms of evolution] that things change. The question is NOT what is Temple Grandin doing? But rather what are YOU doing? We’re talking about it, that’s good. But let’s not malign someone who clearly does not need to be considered an opponent of our overall cause.