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Medical The cow whisperer

  1. Jun 8, 2006 #1
    The show is called 'horizon' and is on tv tonight on BBC2:

    Now how do we know she isnt a sadistic psychopath and all those cows are going down horribly?
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  3. Jun 8, 2006 #2


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    That's an amazing story, thanks Pit

    What I'm really curious about is this part at the end of the story:
    First of all, it seems strange for someone sympathetic to the animals to be designing slaughter house equipment. Second, I have to wonder what it is that she designed.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  4. Jun 8, 2006 #3

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    You can see a sketch of one of her designs in "An Anthropologist on Mars" by Oliver Sacks. He devotes an entire chapter to Temple Grandin in this book.
  5. Jun 8, 2006 #4


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    I just found her web site here:

    She provides numerous tips and designs for slaughtering animals.

    Caution: Not for the squeemish
  6. Jun 9, 2006 #5
    I watched horizon yesterday, but i didnt think it discussed the subject properly. They combined the topic of autism with an autobiographic tale of Grandins life, and the result was entertaining show, but it didnt explain how she was able to know what animals think/feel.

    Her stories were interesting, she said that as an autistic child, she was focussed on little things so much that people around here were transparent and that their voices were far away.

    They said autistic people see light and hear sound differently.
  7. Jun 15, 2006 #6
    On the 'center for consciousness' website I saw a picture of Grandin, where she was giving a presentation with the subtitle "my mind works like the search engine google for images". I looked up what the presentation was about and this is what i found:

    There are some really interesting statements in there :surprised
  8. Jun 15, 2006 #7


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    Not really. She doesn't object to using animals for food, just focuses on ensuring they are treated as humanely as possible as long as they are alive. Her ideas and input are well-accepted in the industry, mainly because, not surprisingly, if animals are less stressed/fearful, they are easier and safer to work with.

    Yes, she claims her autism gives her a similar perspective to that of the animals, but it really seems mostly that she notices the small details that a lot of people overlook. Nonetheless, having worked with large animals and having studied their behaviors myself, these things are not out of the grasp of others who are not autistic. While we might not appreciate why it is that a horse will spook when there's a little piece of string or plastic fluttering on the fence of a show ring, careful observation tells us, nonetheless, that it happens, and in the interest of the animals' AND riders' safety, anyone running a show will walk those fences meticulously scanning them for the smallest thing that can move or reflect a glare, and remove any such objects. This is the sort of thing Temple Grandin does, except, her own explanation is that such things also startle or disturb her, so she is more likely to notice them when others have missed them. That is the basis of her statements that she perceives the world similarly to the animals.

    The thing to also keep in mind is that the people setting up and designing these facilities aren't always the ones who actually work with the animals on a daily basis, so they make some really bad design decisions. What Temple has done is reach that audience with the information those of us who work with animals daily have known for so long that we forget it's not second nature to everyone. As an example, back when my step-sister's kids were active in 4-H, they had a show at a park that had a fairly newly built show ring for equestrian events. It didn't take more than a few minutes before one of the more experienced riders noticed a major flaw in the placement of the show ring...it was right next to a soccer field, with the back of the goal facing the ring. Sure enough, a practice ride demonstrated that the horses would spook when they reached that end of the rink with the fluttering net visible to them. The event couldn't begin until the net on the soccer goal was removed.

    Many of the changes Temple has made seem equally obvious, but for some reason, those running facilities such as slaughter houses really hadn't taken into account, probably because they really weren't even considering the animals' natural behaviors. For example, Temple recommends using curved chutes to run animals through rather than having straight runs connected by right angles, as was more common. When you think about how an animal normally behaves, and what a right angle at the end of a run looks like from the direction they're heading, what they see is a wall in front of them. They don't see that there's a bend with more open path around it, they just see that wall. When they're being chased by someone from behind, and see an obstacle ahead, they panic and start to turn back away from the wall, likely injuring other cattle and the people behind them as they do this.

    If you instead have a curving path for them to follow, they can always see ahead to open space, so it continues to appear as an escape route from the person chasing them.

    So, yes, her involvement has changed a lot about how the animals have been handled, and she continues to be a strong advocate of animal welfare, but I don't really think her autism is the reason for it, although that's her claim. It's just that she actually took the time to observe the details. Now, it could be that because of her autism, she is more likely to focus in on details unlike others who must make a conscious effort to do so.
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