Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Temple Grandin

Every so often I have the need to rant and I figure this is the place to do it. Today is one of those days. You have been given fair warning!

With the recent airing of the HBO TV movie starring Claire Danes, you may be aware of Temple Grandin, the highly-functioning autistic woman who has made it her life's work to improve the handling of cattle at slaughterhouses. Sounds noble right? Many people think so. But I suspect they admire her because her work makes meat-eating less troubling for them. I guess I wouldn't have a problem so much if she just did this work without presenting herself as some kind of cattle whisperer and wouldn't go on and on about "loving" these animals. She even waxes poetic about having a religious experience as she calms a cow - calms it before it has its head bashed in.

Or could she at least - at the VERY least - encourage people to consume less meat (better for the animals - better for the environment). But no, instead she states that not eating meat is unnatural and how she became light-headed and dizzy (OMG!) when she stopped eating meat. She even implies that autistic people and maybe others are genetically required to eat meat. A thoughtful examination of that idea among others can be found at http://www.compassionatespirit.com/vegetarianism-and-genetics.htm

In my Google searches on Ms. Grandin I found several blogs where people were disturbed by Grandin's ideas. I am posting excepts of two of them here.

Olivia Lane posted back in 2006

"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 convince them that the cow who is now their hamburger died silent and stress-free and that makes everything okay."

Jim Sinclair, also autistic and an animal rights activist writes:

"Dying as a natural process is not the same as killing a healthy living creature... It’s irrelevant if a middle-aged scientist can say that she doesn’t fear death, that she understands it as a natural part of life. Almost all the beings whose lives she helps end are immature or just barely mature. Almost none of them are close to natural death. They’re not ready to die. If someone were to shoot or stab or electrocute the middle-aged scientist today, she might find that she’s not ready to die either. If you understand life, you know that it wants to continue. If you feel life throbbing under your touch, you know it’s desecration to set your hand to stop that living pulse. If you love something, you don’t kill it."

I think that last sentence pretty much sums it up.


  1. Just caught the end of that movie the other night. It seemed a little weird, and I get your point.

  2. Willow posted about that too. I don't think I could enjoy that.

  3. I only recently heard about Temple Grandin. I thought "Wow, what a great ability she has." I would love to be able to tune into animals' thoughts. But then I heard about her work in slaughterhouses and thus I knew her beliefs about 'loving' animals did not match mine. Jim Sinclair is right - you don't kill the things you love. Nor do you eat them.

  4. I am getting closer and closer to becoming a vegetarian!!!!

  5. Death with a purpose gives full meaning to life. Get off your existential high horses and come down to reality. Cattle are not humans. I believe you are all caught up in a deeply immoral self-destructing mindset when you value the life of a cow over an exceptional human being. You watch one movie and read one article about a HUMAN person and think that upon that you somehow have the right to value their life over that of a cow. Temple Grandin is an amazing individual who has overcome obstacles you have not, nor will you likely encounter in your worst nightmares. She did this through her love for animals and nature. What have you gained from your so-called connection to nature through the idolization of animals over humans or even God? Nothing but hatred and a state of opposition. Your connection to nature is fundamentally flawed and your valuation of animals (whom you do not understand) over your fellow men (whom you will ignorantly judge) is appalling and immoral. Death with a purpose gives full meaning to life. Think about that.

  6. Olivia Lane is factually wrong, in Temple Grandin designed slaughter house the animals are calmly restrained while their throats are slit (hence no mooing). The cows are lifted AFTER having their throats slit, that's a very big distinction. Usually the throats are slit instead of using a stun gun in Kosher slaughter. If Lane can show one person more qualified that can refute Dr. Grandin the world has yet to see it. The ranchers and meat packers who flock to Temple Grandin happen to love their animals and want to provide the best lives for them and in return the animals provide a wonderful life for the family farmers and ranchers that raise them. So the alternative would be what, to not let these animals have good lives because they are given a respectful death w/out cruelty?. I used to be vegan a rather serious one at that and it really didn't make me feel that great. But now I'm careful where I get my meat, I either consume wild game I've harvested myself or I buy meat from farmers I know who've treated their animals with respect and kindness all the way to the end. And even if I didn't eat meat, what am I supposed to feed my cats and dog, because feeding them a vegetarian diet would be cruelty to animals. Ultimately Dr. Temple Grandin is the person who has done the most to make life for farm animals better, to reject her methods does no service to the animals --even if they are only going to be consumed by our dogs and cats.

  7. I think if meat eating were essential to life (in our civilized world) Ms. Grandin might deserve some of her accolades. But since we don't need to butcher "healthy" animals - It's just killing without a purpose. Making that killing more effective for the industry - and more palatable for consumers hardly does any innocent victim any good.

    And to those concerned about what to feed their dogs (and cats) - My 80 pound dogs do fine on a plant based diet. Their vet is very happy with their health. And the oldest dog on record died at 27 years old... A vegetarian all of his life! Hardly "cruelty" at all!

  8. I would like to point out that your opinion is a little biased, the fact remains that our bodies need protein, as omnivorous beings it is in our instinct to eat meat. naturally dogs eat meat (eg coyotes and wolves) their diets are omnivorous but mainly protein. The difference between humans and other omnivorous beings is that we understand the humane treatment of animals, so we can choose to usher them to the end of their life through a confusing terrifying maze only causing suffering, or we can design farms and slaughter houses that are more natural to the animals reducing anxiety and injuries.

  9. I would like to add that while you may not kill something you "love" so to speak but anything or anyone you love, you protect from injury and help to full fill their purpose. and domesticated cows are meant for meat.

  10. Yes Anonymous - Our bodies do need protein... But protein is in all foods. We do not specifically need "animal based" protein. And therein lies the lack of "necessity" to breed and kill 57 billion animals world wide for the "habit" of animal consumption.

    If we truly understood what "humane" meant it would not mean to kill as "nicely" as possible but to avoid killing altogether. Especially since we are doing so merely for the pleasure of the taste (or the economic benefit).

    And as far as the "purpose" of cows? “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”
    Alice Walker

  11. Bea Elliott, thank you for such an eloquent expression of your position on this important issue. I could not have said it better myself. You are a truly enlightened individual.

  12. Thank you Doris... But I am just a student on this path too- just like everyone else. I wasn't born (or raised) on a plant based diet... But the choice seemed easy, once I finally got around to examining the heart of the matter.

    Unfortunately we live in a fast culture that is encouraged not to see the harsh realities of (killing) and eating animals. 50 commercials an hour will convince us that it's natural, normal and necessary. I can understand how their pitch is so effective. It's exactly what most people want to hear. But the truth is our challenges to change (for the better) are inevitable. I really believe it's just a matter of time...

    So thanks for your efforts towards bringing discussion and serious thought to this issue. The more we can talk about it - The more the Truth will be embraced.

  13. I raise cattle. I raise them for meat. It's paying for my continued education. Being omnivorious, we're biologically made to eat meat. While animals should be treated humanely (by knocking them unconscince quickly by use of a pressure point before bleeding them out by slitting the jugular and causing the animal to theoreticallly "fall asleep")I don't agree that we shouldn't consume animals at all. Because of Grandin's work, not only are market productions more efficient and humane, but we have a better understanding of prey animal behavior. I use her systems on my farm and it makes tasks much easier and the cattle don't moo or get all riled up. I suggest that next time you go on a rant, you get your facts strait and get off your high horse. It's people like you whose exsistence annoys the natural system of life.

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  15. Hello Doris - I hope I am not monopolizing your blog with this response - But I feel "Anonymous" is addressing me specifically, and I should reply likewise...

    Dear Anonymous - I appreciate that humans are capable of digesting meat... But as stated previously, it is neither necessary, and as more research shows, is probably not a healthy choice.

    I'm at a loss as to how you don't see the contradiction in this sentence: "While animals should be treated humanely (by knocking them unconscince quickly by use of a pressure point before bleeding them out by slitting the jugular and..." Perhaps if you tried substituting the word "compassionate" with humane you might grasp the contradictions in your logic? Compassionate slaughter? No, it does not work at all you see.

    The crux of the matter is - That since there is no "necessity" there simply cannot be any kindness. Purposely breeding animals just to kill, for monetary gain is simply exploitative.

    This was not a rant... I have the "facts". I do understand that under Grandin's system nonhumans might experience "less" suffering and "less" pain. However, I do re-assert that no one, no matter how "nicely" they kill - If it's done for frivolous reasons - It is unjust, unfair and in my view immoral.

    This is no "high horse" - But rather a connection with the "loweliest" of creatures and an understanding that no one wishes to die. Perhaps cows don't "moo" or get all riled up - But if you were to put yourself in their place, (off your high horse) you'd see that these cows would NOT want their lives to be taken from them.

    I don't believe monetary gain, tradition or whim cancels out this fact.

    Finally, regarding "the natural system"? I believe the natural system of civilization is to evolve away from harmful practices that hold no value. The methodical, deliberate UNNECESSARY holocaust against innocent beings is an archaic notion to be rejected with shameful disdain. You see, I am all for the enlightenment of my species - And I honestly don't know how willful bloodshed figures into the mix.

    Thank you for respecting my views as well.