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Temple Grandin: Helping the Animals We Can’t Save

Written by PETA | February 10, 2010
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Temple Grandin.jpg

 

This post originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

This month, HBO is premiering an original biopic starring Claire Danes about an extraordinary person, Dr. Temple Grandin. As a young woman, Grandin struggled with the isolating challenges of autism at a time when this disorder was almost a total mystery. Today she is one of the best-known advocates for autism education.

But I applaud Dr. Grandin for another reason, one that has angered some people who work in animal protection: I admire her work in the field of humane animal slaughter. PETA would prefer, of course, that no animals be killed for food, but we won’t ignore the horrors of factory farms and slaughterhouses just because we wish that they didn’t exist.

Throughout her career as an animal-science professor at Colorado State University and a consultant to the American Meat Institute, Grandin has worked to improve animal-handling systems at slaughterhouses—markedly decreasing, although never able to stop completely, the amount of fear and pain that animals experience.

In 2006, she described to National Public Radio her experience watching cattle get vaccinated at feedlots during the 1970s. Some of the animals would just walk into the holding chutes, she said, while others refused. So Grandin did what no one else had bothered to do before: She went into the chutes herself. As she wrote in an essay for my book One Can Make a Difference, “(I)t seemed obvious to me to get down into the chute and see what the cattle were seeing.” She realized that visual details such as shadows, a reflection off a truck’s bumper, or people standing up ahead were causing the animals to be fearful.

These insights led her to design cattle-restraining systems that are now used by half the meat plants in North America. “(P)eople just wanted to get out there and yell and scream and push and shove,” Grandin told NPR, rather than “remove the things that the cattle were afraid of.”

This may seem like a small victory—the cows are still going to be killed, after all—but until the day that we get animals off the dinner plate altogether, is it too much to ask that we do everything we can to reduce the fear and suffering that they experience in the slaughterhouse?

PETA’s campaigns against the cruel practices of fast-food chains and against the use of intensive confinement systems that do not even allow animals enough room to stand up, turn around, or extend their limbs have improved the living and dying conditions for millions of animals. As the industries change and evolve, these improvements will apply to billions of animals every year.

The vast majority of people, if they care about animals—and consumer surveys show that they do—support such incremental changes, even if the increments are far from wholly satisfactory to the animals who would rather not be caged at all or hung upside down and killed. In November 2008, for example, California voters made history by approving a ballot measure to ban the use of veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages on factory farms. Last year, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a landmark bill that will phase out these same cruel devices in her state as well.

I completely understand the appeal of battle cries such as “Not bigger cages—empty cages!” and I encourage every kind soul who shares this sentiment to make a difference by going vegan. But, as Dr. Grandin has shown us, giving a little comfort and relief to animals who will be in those cages their whole lives is worth fighting for, even as some of us are demanding that those cages be emptied.

Written by Ingrid E. Newkirk

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  • Zooks says:

    I completely agree with animals being put through the most miniscule amount of stress before they die. No one should have to endure the suffering and fear so many animals are forced through every day. The conditions of several abattoirs leave much to be desired no excuses. However on the subject of reducing animal suffering PETA put to sleep 97 of the allegedly “rescued” stray animals Most for no apparent reason. It seems dubious that all those animals were rendered untreatable by some terminal ilness or inoperable injury. And of course there’s the fact that they support and fund Breedspecific legistlation BSL something of a holocaust for canines as in discrimination and death for dogs of supposedly vicious breeds. That’s a strange way of proclaiming your aspirations for inclusive animal rights.

  • Sandra says:

    I don’t eat meat and have always felt that ‘humane slaughter’ is something of an oxymoron. But as long as people are eating meat the animals should at least be subjected to the minimal amount of stress and cruelty possible. To the people who sneer at Grandin’s work do you also sneer at those shelters who perform euthanasia by injection rather than by gas or heart stick? Do you think it’s hypocritical to campaign for more humane euthanasia or in your black and white world because you disagree with euthanising shelter animals zero efforts should be made to do it humanely until the world is a perfect place and there are no more homeless pets. It’s really easy to pontificate from a soap box and condemn the incremental measures such as these while the larger battles are being fought but it takes real courage to deal with the harsh realities try to mitigate the suffering for the animals who are still stuck in the system and accept that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And then another and another and another.

  • 10 yr old peta fan says:

    i don’t agree Andre Inglis. kids and animals are very similar. Lots of them have enough physically but very few have people specifically adults truly understand them. We can think ourselves which is exactly what grown ups don’t get. Children legally have no rights as do animals.

  • David Le Rerou says:

    NT what a little bossy dictator you are.You are the only one throwing a hissy fit.Roger Chris Mark Simara all had factual noble and helpful points.You just have whiny defensive guilt ridden responses.The abolition of animal cruelty should be a goal we all strive for including you.People like you are just hear to get attention when really you have nothing valid to share.Why not take a visit to a local slaughter house and see if the animals are delighted with the minor adjustment to the pain anxiety anguish and murder they are violated with I doubt they would be applauding or thankful for this.

  • Soliel says:

    I saw the show and it was riveting on so many levels. I am a vegan too. I wish it would all stop but it won’t in my lifetime. So I am grateful there are people like Temple Grandin out there in the feedlots and plants working to make change. She is on ground zero…places I could not venture to even step forth as I’d be comatose and crying the whole time. What use would that be? Zero. Zero would be accomplished. But because Temple is strong and reasonable she can and has done this very difficult and emotionally wrenching task of seeing the horror and then bravely working to change it. I applaud her while I try to convince others to go vegan.

  • Margy says:

    Thank you Ingrid. I wish there were a thousand more of you as well as a thousand more Temple Grandins! Not only is she helping to reduce the immediate fear and suffering of animals but like PETA her work is raising awareness about animals as sensitive sentient beings. And every step towards making people more conscious of animals as independent feeling beings rather than just a product for our consumption is a step towards what we all wantthat some day no animals will be killed for food. But let’s be Realthat kind of change takes a long time and has to begin with changing people’s consciousness.

  • Lisa says:

    To Grandin’s supporters I completely understand your beliefs in alleviating the suffering of farm animals in a nonvegan world but you are all very misguided if you ignore this truth promoting welfare principles ultimately leads to the common acceptance of eating and using animals as long as they are treated “humanely”. Welfarism simply does not lead to the rejection or alteration of the view of animals as anything other than objects to be used or exploited. This means that former vegetarians and vegans are now eating meat again because of the humane meat movement and the majority of the population continues to feel better about eating meat. Sadly the actual result is that you are promoting the very thing you say you’re against. Welfarism has historically shown to be the greatest enemy of animal rights. I really wish some individuals here would get the courage to accept such hard facts

  • NT says:

    I agree Joanna. Teresa cut the name calling I am a vegan and animal rights activist but that is not the point I don’t owe any explanations. Stop attacking people and concentrate on doing something for the animals other than preaching and putting other people down. Like I said before why do all abolitionists have to be so angry rude and offensive? You might want to look in the mirror yourself… and again you are on the wrong site.

  • Rad_Rosa89 says:

    Even though I don’t support the slaughter or animals for food it makes me happy knowing that animals around the world are being treated even a little bit better.

  • Joanna says:

    I am sure Dr. Grandin would gladly give up her work to make slaughter less stressful for animals when the use of animals for human food is made obsolete by vegans. Until then we need her and those like her to make the world just a little bit better if not perfect.

  • James says:

    RIGHT ON ROGER!!! AND I COULDN’T AGREE MORE WITH SIMARA! DOWN WITH ANIMAL CRUELTY. IT CAN BE DONE IT NEEDS TO DONE IT WILL BE DONE.

  • Teresa says:

    Good points ChrisSimaraMark Roger!You make me proud to be Vegan and an activist.NT you are cowardly your anger could be channeled into facing reality and have the courage to take the reality of animal cruelty and speak up and out against it.If people have a strong reaction to animal cruelty such as ChrisSimaraMark Roger it is because animal cruelty needs a strong reaction.Perhaps your incorrect translation of seeing that as holier than thou is because these people have the guts to speak up out in courageous ways you know you should be….I encourage you NT to do some serious looking in the mirror as haters like you are just confused admirers.Thank you again ChrisSimaraMark and Roger for focusing on what is important here that animal cruelty must be abolished period.Not lessened but ended.

  • ocean17 says:

    what simara said. animals should not suffer sadistic abuse and horrible fates on factory farms and modern day feedlots.

  • Carla says:

    Simara I could not have said it better myself! great post!!!

  • NT says:

    Simara that is the problem with “abolitionists” like you their holierthanthou attitude calling people ignorant and idiotic just because they believe that every step towards minimizing the suffering of animals is a good thing. Your approach does not help anyone least of all the animals. Take it down a notch. BTW why are you even on Peta’s website? shouldn’t you be on a Francione’s site or something?

  • Allie says:

    I am a vegan and although I understand the sentiments of others stating that this should not be applauded I do not share this belief. I realistically know animals are being killed in mass every day in North America and there is very little I can do aside from being Vegan myself and being a fantastic ambassador for my beliefs. If people are going to eat animals as do the vast majority of the population it stands to reason that they should be treated as kindly as possible and any attempt to provide enrichment or reduce their stress is better than no step ahead at all. Yes I wish everyone was vegan but I am not so blinded by that as to ignore the reality of our current situation.I want to ensure steps are made to improve the quality of life of those animals until they are no longer used. These are just my thoughts but I think it is reasonable. Kindest Regards VeganTigress

  • michelle says:

    For those of you who criticize Ms. Grandin’s accomplishments just ask yourself this what have I done to help alleviate the pain and suffering from factory farmed animals? Ms. Grandin’s efforts made the lives of these animals a little bit bearable before death. She was brave enough to tour slaughterhouses and find out how she could make it more humane. Just imagine how they were treated before she came along. Watch the HBO movie read her books. She’s a great woman. Btw I am a vegetarian and soon to be vegan but majority of humans are still going to eat meat and that is not going to change anytime soon unfortunately.

  • Manic Monkey says:

    Mark The problem with your comparison is that humans don’t taste good.

  • Brian Cernius says:

    there is no reason everyone cant be a vegan these day I have been a vegetarian since I was 8 years old now 27 and recently became a vegan Pretty shocking how easy it was. I know this is kinda off subject I just wish we could show the world how simple it really is…my guess is if more people were vegan the veggie meats would be far far less money to produce than meats and taste Ive been told damn near the same….no excuses any more

  • Mia says:

    My gut reaction to watching the story of Temple Grandin and her quest to alleviate the fear and pain in cows was pure love and admiration for this girl who overcame so much to fight for what she believed was wrong. She IS a hero and someone to be admired for many reasons mainly that perseverance pays off not ranting and raving. What she had to overcome is something most of the rest of us will never have to face. Most people would have given up. Since she did not the suffering of many creatures has been alleviated. I am vegan and also want the world to be vegan and wish that as of this moment there would not be one more creature tortured or abused by a human. That wish will obviously not come true. I will continue to talk my talk and walk it every day nonetheless. If I were asked at this moment if by the snap of my finger a large amount of suffering to animals could be alleviate without anyone becoming vegan I would say YES! Who the hell would not say YES??!! Thank you Temple Grandin. She should be an inspiration to all of us vegans to persevere instead of throwing temper tantrums.

  • Kelley says:

    Change always comes it baby steps. At least get consumers to start thinking about more humane methods of slaughter. Then get them to think about no slaughter!

  • Randy says:

    “…only a selfish mentally disturbed person would not choose to be Vegan” Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity and no shortage of people who dedicate their lives to other are not vegans. Let’s fix the statement “…only a selfish mentally disturbed person would become angry that someone managed to implement more humane slaughter standards in an industry that could care two licks about being humane.” “…only a selfish mentally disturbed person would expect such an institution to instantly end or even find it fathomable that it could possibly end in their lifetime” Seriously how has your ranting affected the huge number of animals slaughtered every day? By not being arrogant unrealistic or elitist Dr. Grandin has helped ease the passage of animals that would have died irregardless of your hatred of meat consumption. Grand changes occur most frequently in a stepwise manner over a long period of time. Slavery may technically have been abolished overnight but it’s not as if the North was born against it. Change takes time and there’s no need to be petulant when progress is made.

  • cody says:

    In preabolition of slavery US where there any people who supported “more humane treatment” of slaves rather than abolition? I won’t be an ahole about it like some people but think about it folks. Promoting this just makes people think it’s okay to eat “humane” meat when we all know that the very definition of “humane” means it cannot be applied to animal products. Slavery no matter how “humane is still slavery. This is just my opinion of course.

  • Mark says:

    I’m just astounded by some of the comments seen here today. This woman is being heralded a hero. And for what? This blog didn’t focus on the more important aspect of what is going on in slaughterhouses. It’s not so much about the fact that animals are being treated inhumanely but that they are being killed for human consumption. Living beings their lives eradicated to satisfy the pallette of a vulgar human. And yes meat eaters are vulgar. If someone had invented a device during the 2nd world war that helped the nazi’s “more humanely” kill jewish and african people would they have been heralded as heroes? No. Why should the case be any different here? Humans need to move past the barriers and borders that we put up to segregate us from other animals. If we only looked and saw that we have blood they have blood. We have flesh they have flesh. If we looked past our own speciesism maybe we’d be able to see that something like “more humane” ways to slaughter another life is not something to be held in esteem but rather something to be lamented as a grand failure of our own species to show anything other than pure selfishness.

  • John says:

    And it is those who claim there’s “no gray area” who are the cruellest of all

  • John says:

    I can never understand the extremists who are so uncompassionate as to deny livestock animals any kind of improvement in their lives. How horribly cruel is that. It is like claiming to champion the rights of political prisoners but refusing to give them blankets or medical treatment or books to read because “nothing should be done until they are out of jail.” ???????

  • simara says:

    asdftyui you said “People are free to chose how they live and you are free to express your beliefs. You shouldn’t try to tell them how to live their life and if you criticize try to do so constructively.” my answer your favorite band is an OPINION. whatever faith you choose is a BELIEF. Animal Cruelty is a REALITY that is an unnecessary tragedy. Animal Rights weather you or anyone else CHOOSE to accept are a FACT. People do have a right to live their lives as they choose unless what they do harms violates tortures or murders another being. Don’t ask me or anyone to be polite and hold up a peace sign to those who are harming animals.I won’t that would be as bad as the person doing it.Just as I wouldn’t do that in response to a rape a molestation or a murder of a human being.

  • Lauren says:

    My husband and i watched the temple grandin special on HBO and were completely blown away by her efforts to improve the live of these animals. She is such an amazing person.

  • Leslie Hathaway says:

    Lately I have been reading more and more about what animals go through before they are brought to death. It is completely wrong and something needs to be done immediately. If they are going to be slaughtered it should be done in a humane way. In my opinion they should be anesthetized if they are going to be murdered. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to endure what these chickens turkeys pigs cows ducks rabbits et cetera go through? It makes me want to scream. It is absolutely horrible. What can I do to help? Please let me know. My name is Leslie and my email address is hathawayleslieyahoo.com. I can’t stand to see animals or people suffer. There is no excuse for it. I have spent many years and and a lot of money to give my pets the best life that they could ever hope for. I have also helped many animals that have been left to die by their owners. I really appreciate people who really care about animals.

  • Andre Inglis says:

    Roger I agree that eating animals contributes to incredible cruelty.. It would be great if everyone would turn vegan. However right now at this moment that is not the case. For those who do not turn vegan it would be nice to know that the animals they do eat are at a bare minimum treated ‘better.’ Many people seem to think that if we change these standards that people will think of happy animals and feel better about eating animals. While this may be so for some people it also directs the attention to an issue that would be otherwise ignored by them anyways had it not been addressed. Step by step we are changing the standards of the animal industry so everyone can see animals as more then just ‘products.’ These animals have rights and we have start at the bottom of the ladder to get to the top. When woman fought for their rights they took it step by step. First getting the right to not being sexually abused. Then the right to not be physically abused. Then the right to vote. Then working rights. Then more specifics like mental abuse… They had to go through that cycle of steps. Now children have rights. African Americans have rights. And Animals will have rights. It will happen.

  • ocean17 says:

    what Roger and simara said. this is nothing to get excited about. the insanity of modern day industrial factory farms needs to stop.

  • asdftyui says:

    Since i’m new to this site i didn’t realize that comments’s authors are listed below the comment. That being said my last comment was directed to “Roger”. Sorry about that Andre Inglis…

  • asdftyui says:

    Andre Inglis Well “alleviating” suffering isn’t really curing the problem but it’s a step between completely solving it and leaving it alone at the least it’s a step in the right direction. I would also caution you when calling nonvegans “a selfish mentally disturbed person.” People are free to chose how they live and you are free to express your beliefs. You shouldn’t try to tell them how to live their life and if you criticize try to do so constructively. please. I am not a vegan or vegetarin so you can type anything back i’m interested into what YOU have to type.

  • PETA FAN says:

    The issue is the other 50 of slaughterhouses who could invest in alleviating some of these innocent animals pain and suffering given a more humane alternative exists and yet they refuse to. Pitiful no excuse! Meanwhile anything that can be done to alleviate their intense hell is important from breeding conditions to scary transport to slaughter. THANK YOU PETA FOR ALL YOU DO! A special thanks to the courageous and brave investigators who take the veil of secrecy off this morally sick system.

  • Roger says:

    There is nothing heroic or noble about “alleviating” a suffering that is unnecessary in the first place.In 2010 there is no excuse or reason people should not be Vegan. After learing the facts educating yourself on the realities that have been spelled out for you only a selfish mentally disturbed person would not choose to be Vegan. Animals are not ours to wear eat test on ride or use for entertainment. We should not be applauding making torture and murder “slightly better” there is no way to make torture or murder okay and everytime someone cowardly applauds that instead of having the courage to be a part of abolishing animal cruelty they only harm animals and their rights.

  • Andre Inglis says:

    I agree with Ingrid. If you don’t agree. Please read this Think of all the animal rights and welfare groups concentrating efforts on all sorts of issues and making progress. With each group specializing at ONE issue we hit harder and together as a whole we overcome. All these issues are connected! PETA is just one answer to animal exploitation. Along with environmental groups and health groups spirtual groups and eductional groups and on and on. We’re everywhere. Each group works in their own way to ‘dismantle’ and cripple the efforts of those who choose to exploit animals. What we need to realise is that we ARE making progress. BIG progress. Rome was not built in a day. It’s a great thing that animal rights groups and others before us have paved the foundation for us to build upon. We have them to thank. Lets see the issue of what it really is. These animals have the option to be treated better. Lets grant them that. We are setting higher and better standards for these animals and people are seeing these animals in a more compassionate way these days. And why fight eachother? Use that energy to help the animals and let the agribusiness animal exploiters fight eachother as they crumble to the ground. For the animals

  • simara says:

    that photo is one of slavery a poor choice. How is telling another being to stop!go!faster!forcing and deciding their free range of movement not slavery?has anyone ever pulled back even slightly on the corners of their mouth?it is EXTREMELY sensitive now imagine a leather and metal piece doing that each time a human pulls on the straps of a bridle. also “NT” you mention that you don’t appreciate abolitionistsget a reality checkwould you be okay if sexual predators “just” molested someone versus full on raping them?and would you prefer they treat the victim of their crime with care before they do so ? do you see how ignorant and idiotic that is? a violation is a violation.animal cruelty is animal cruelty.animal’s rights have been the longest most wide spread most accepted form of unnecessary tragedy inflicted by the human race.No degree of animal cruelty is better than the other.It is all vile unethical and immoral.feeling any degree of animal cruelty is “okay” or “worse” than another is cowardly and only helps perpetuate animal cruelty.Make a decision to stand up and speak out in continual action against animal cruelty and stick to it.There is no “grey area” in animal cruelty.It is all bad and must be stopped and it starts with the individual so empower yourself and be more a part of the solution versus aiding the problem.

  • Chris says:

    I find it difficult to support “alleviating suffering” over doing away with it altogether. I get the big picture point. But I find it very difficult to stomach.

  • Jade says:

    While I agree with the stance you have here Ingrid it does show that people can at least admit while change can happen it’s best to do them in steps. This is something Grandin should be applauded for she is currently the Upton Sinclair of this generation. You are a bit inaccurate with the slaughterhouses still but it is a better portrayal than what is commonly shown here and that’s also a plus. So I applaud Grandin for doing it the right way and getting results.

  • Sandy says:

    Thanks for doing all you can. It’s some good even if only helping an animal feel better a few minutes.. an improvement at least.

  • NT says:

    I agree 100! I don’t appreciate it when “abolitionists” undermine the efforts of groups like PETA to reduce animal suffering even for those we can’t save. That is just selfish. I’m sure an animal that will die today in spite of our best efforts would prefer to be handled humanely and rendered unconscious before being bled to death…

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