What’s wrong with Temple Grandin?

Temple Grandin and Horse. Photographer Unknown.
Temple Grandin and Horse. Photographer Unknown.

I am often asked why I am so opposed to the work of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin means well, certain animal advocates point out to me, and has dedicated her life to making the slaughter of animals more humane. Here is why.

Slaughter is not, and cannot be made, humane.

Definition of slaughter: To kill in a violent or brutal manner.

Definition of humane: Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion

Clearly, the terms slaughter and humane are about as contradictory as two words can be.

Can anyone in actuality kill in a violent or brutal manner characterized by kindness, mercy or compassion? I believe that killing characterized by kindness, mercy or compassion is defined as euthanasia. It is certainly not defined as slaughter.

In an article written by Mark Schatzker, “Why you should eat horsemeat: It’s delicious,” Globe and Mail (Canada), Jan. 4, 2011, he speaks with Temple Grandin about horse slaughter:

As to the apparent cruelty of slaughtering a horse, I put the question to Temple Grandin, the famous animal-welfare specialist. Dr. Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University who has studied the horsemeat industry in Canada and the United States, told me horses do not possess a unique or unusual susceptibility to suffering.

“Their brains are similar to pigs and cattle,” she said, “although they’re a bit more flighty. As long as you use the right equipment, it can be as humane as any other kind of slaughter. I don’t see any reason why a horse can’t lead a happy life and be slaughtered and not suffer.” The vast majority of welfare issues Dr. Grandin witnesses aren’t due to slaughter but to owner neglect. If given the choice between being a horse and a commodity pig or chicken, Dr. Grandin says, “I’d rather be the average horse.”

Well, I can see why Grandin would rather be the “average horse.” Horses are not food animals, and the average horse is not slaughtered, although approximately 100,000 U.S. horses are killed each year in slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico for human consumption overseas. A “commodity pig or chicken” on the other hand is definitely headed to the slaughterhouse. Grandin knows what happens to pigs and chickens, before and on arrival at the slaughterhouse, is horrific.

So, in Dr. Grandin’s opinion, horses do not fear or suffer any more than pigs and cattle when slaughtered. Further, when a horse is slaughtered “it can be as humane as any other kind of slaughter” and doesn’t see any reason why a horse can’t “be slaughtered and not suffer.”

Note the date. Here is what Grandin said just days after she was interviewed for the above article about just how “humane” slaughter is.

At the Summit of the Horse in Las Vegas, Grandin stated that only about 20% of animal slaughter facilities operate within acceptable humane guidelines and the rest “slip into bad practices” with a full 10% intentionally treating animals cruelly.

Wow, as good as that? Supposedly Dr. Grandin has worked out modifications and improvements that can bring slaughterhouse practices within a humane range of acceptability. Don’t believe it for a moment.

Right now, however, for argument’s sake say she could.

Whatever they are, they are not going to happen in a fast moving production line with stringent slaughter quotas to meet to be profitable. Additionally, it was the consensus of many of the pro slaughter attendees at the Summit that Grandin’s recommended changes to prevent cruelty would be “costly.” There did not seem to be much interest anyway, and they can save their money. The only surefire way to prevent cruelty in a slaughterhouse is to close it down.

Dr. Grandin’s high sounding ideas to revolutionize the slaughter of horses or any other animal to prevent cruelty are never likely to materialize, and would not achieve it if they did. But it certainly sounds good coming out of the mouths of the killers who use her to continue exploiting animals for food and help soothe the consciences of those who eat them.

That is why I am so opposed to the work of Dr. Temple Grandin.

36 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Temple Grandin?”

  1. Also, Summit folks had dedicated speakers and presentations against the HUMANE Society of the United States, whom they feel wants to impose unnecessary regulations and “anti-American” humane conditions on livestock and commodity farming in the US. How did Temple feel about that? They even went as far to make the claim that the Humane Society wants to take away your right to eat meat and own a pet. (Someone please tell these people no one is coming to get your guns, or your steak or your pet.) If you polled Americans I can reasonably expect that 80-90% would be in favor of reducing suffering of all commodity livestock raised in horrific conditions and then slaughtered. And those same people would have no interest in seeing horses slaughtered, especially for food. And they would probably be willing to pay a little more to guarantee this. I pay an extra dollar or two for eggs because I know how factory farmed chickens live.

    And Temple, one does not have to be autistic to recognize suffering or how to reduce it. The Humane Society knows a thing or two about it too. They helped get Prop 2 passed in California to increase the space in which factory farm animals live and which Summit folks were vehemently opposed to. More humane conditions that you say you are for, but then you align yourself with those working to stop this. Just as slaughter can never be humane, as Vivian states, because then it ceases to be slaughter, you cannot purport to be an animal activist concerned with reducing the suffering of animals while simultaneously work toward re-opening horse slaughter resulting in an increase of animal suffering. You may wish to choose your allies a little more carefully. You chose poorly with the Summit fringe element and as a result your credibility is suffering.

    1. Although considered on the “extreme” end of animal advocacy, I quote Gary Francione, whose stand is worth thinking about:

      For many years now, I have been arguing that the large animal protection groups are, for the most part, partners with institutional exploiters and are, in effect, lobbying arms of the food industry. They do not challenge animal use; in fact, they actively support institutionalized animal use, and claim that it’s only the welfare or treatment issues that matter. They promote what are largely insignificant changes, many of which actually improve production efficiency and many of which are never even implemented or have dates of implementation many years in the future. They promote “happy” exploitation labeling programs where “approved” animal products are sold with the purported blessing of the animal advocacy community. I have argued that welfare reforms (if they can even be called “reforms” rather than efficiency-promoting changes) make the public feel good about continuing to exploit nonhuman animals.

      1. I do not think that particular bit could be called..on the extreme end…he is right. So many small changes, so many things that are seen to be improvements, but aren’t really…are done to keep people happier about the way we treat animals institutionally. If you get a chance..check out the Canwest Global show “No Country for Animals”…it is a good look at how here in Canada we treasure our pets and companions and yet let institutional cruelty continue unabated…the treatment of food animals during their lives, transport and slaughter…and how even with the changes made to our animal cruelty laws we still have a provision that would seem to allow “necessary suffering”. I do not think he is that extreme in his views. I have seen slaughter, I have seen battery farms, I have seen dogs and cats subjected to horrible things testing pet foods and more….horse slaughter is the tip of the iceberg…a good place to start stopping the inhumanity to our fellow creatures. We simply have to stop looking at animals as things..things we can use with impunity and treat with barbarity and cruelty. Of course, it would be nice if we could stop doing it to each other too.

        1. I agree, Vivian. Nancy, I’m Canadian, and I’ve not idea where this “kind and compassionate” rhetoric originated. We are no better than anyone in terms of how we treat living beings. Including our “treasured” dogs and cats.

          Hundreds of puppy mills, the PMU industry, the seal hunt, dog pounds that sell to research labs and use gassing and decompression. A university (McGill) with a horrific record in humane violations against lab animals. At 10,000 per year, McGill tortures and discards the second largest population of lab animals in North America. Horse slaughter, government bounties on mustangs that have decimated our herds from thousands to two hundred (the annual Alberta mustang capture season is right now—got your license yet?), Grizzly and wolf hunts that have also decimated the population, zoos whose tiny enclosures and inhumane
          treatment beggar description, brutal licensed roadside zoos that eat up the SPCA’s investigation budget, the weakest animal cruelty laws in the civilized world…

          Human rights? Canada is globally rated ‘F’ in our efforts to stop human trafficking, as compared to the US ‘B’. Ukrainian and Japanese internment camps, using slaves to build our railroads, being so brutal to escaped US slaves that most returned to the South, residential schools and other forms of Aboriginal genocide (including distributing smallpox blankets). The South African gov’t met with the Canadian Dept. of Indian Affairs in order to learn our efficient reservation system; they applied it to create apartheid. Participating in thousands of preventable deaths by refusing to allow Jews to enter during the Holocaust—the head of Immigration said, “One Jew is too many.” A drug trade rated second in the world. Go to http://www.macleans.ca and Search “BC world crime superpower.” A quote: “The province is the main port of entry for chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, while B.C.-based Asian gangs are the largest suppliers of ecstasy to Canada and the U.S.”
          Macleans is our Time Magazine. The Fraser Institute published a study showing Americans donate 2 1/2 times more of their income to charity, than do Canadians. If Canadians gave the same percentage of aggregate income as Americans, our non-profits would have $8.4 billion more to work with.

          This notion that Canadians are kinder, gentler people is a gross form of denial. Apathy is not kindness, and saying you are one thing while practicing another is not compassion. This elitist attitude keeps us from both dealing head on with our significant problems, and partnering with advocates in other countries.

        2. I agree Reisa, but Canada is not the only culprit, just one of a million others. Each and every country of the world has it’s dirty laundry that goes out to air in view of others. All you have to do is look.

          And don’t get me wrong I agree about Canadians – I am a Canadian and in terms of our so-called “kindness” we are no better than most yet no different/worse than others.

          You paint a harsh picture, one that most of us do not want to admit and we need to change these things just like all of the other countries need to change theirs.

          That said, I am proud to be Canadian because I do not stand for what all those you mention in your post do. It is only people like us who can work towards change and betterment of human and animal rights. An arduous task to say the least.

        3. Reisa…well said. I wish it were not so, but it seems the only thing we are gentle and kind about sometimes is being polite and too politically correct in what we say and how we deal with the bad guys. Once upon a time I used to think kindness and compassion were a big part of my community, my country and the world I lived in. Then I grew up and started working for animals and children and the hungry and the homeless and I realized that kindness and compassion are there, there is just more apathy and cruelty than I expected in most places. Any country who has not significantly changed their animal welfare laws since the 19th century, any country who allows children to go hungry, any country with our record with aboriginal people…well you mentioned several of the issues that should wipe the smugness right off Canadian faces. I watch the struggle in the Staes to save the wild horses and I wonder why there is no huge outcry over our dwindling mustang…who now number in the hundreds and are not even considered wild, so cannot be protected federally, only by some weak provincial laws. At least there are people like you, like Twyla Francois, like Kein Newman, who know our true nature and hopefully can help wipe the veil from the eyes of most Canadians. And I know there are people around the world, like Vivian and all the others, who are trying to do the same. It gives me hope for change.

        4. To Reisa – your paragraph about the blame for animals suffering in slaughter comes from those who send them there in the first place, brought tears to my eyes – remembering our dear “Traveler” – a 20 y/o Standardbred that we purchased to ride only to find he was drugged and very lame. Rather than send him back to where he came and to God knows what, we kept him and spent everything we had to make whatever time he had left as filled with love and affection as possible. He had that “gentle nicker”, and when he “told” me I needed to let him go, we did so as kindly and peacefully as possible. I had his head in my arms, kissing him and telling him how much I loved him, with tears falling on his face, as my vet administered the fatal dose of drugs. And yes, it is a sacred moment – and one that is so very bittersweet – and that I will never get over.
          I have long said that compassion without action benefits no one. As they say, if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better be prepared to walk the walk.

      2. Vivian, part of the reason I enjoy your blog is that you take an uncompromising stand against animal exploitation, so thank you for posting this!

        I agree with your sentiments as well as Prof. Francione’s. “Humane Slaughter” is an oxymoron because unnecessary violence can never be humane – nor should it be masked as such to protect the sentiments of animal consumers. I flinch whenever Dr. Grandin offers her “blessing” to unnecessary violence, so I thank you for this piece, and for all you do for horses and all other animals. Keep writing…I truly think that you are one of the best voices for the horses!

        1. If slaughtering an animal does not permit the administration of medication that will render the animal unconscious before killing them, then it is not in any way, shape or form, humane.
          And I am disgusted by the comments by Dr. Grandin regarding something to do with an “acceptable” percentage of animals that are slaughtered alive. In my opinion, there is NO “acceptable” percentage of slaughtering animals alive. Zip, Zero, NA-DA, NONE!

        2. Kathie, I’m moved by your description of Traveler’s death. If you’d like to see more of the beauty that surrounds a graceful death, look at Circle F Rescue’s website. They just lost a 34 year old “mascot” who was in forever sanctuary. They also have tributes to Brock on their Facebook Page.

          Brock was a brilliant show horse, his career enshrined in the Kentucky Saddlebred Hall of Fame. As he aged, he of course could not keep up with the younger horses. This is the point many would send a horse to slaughter. Brock’s fan page demonstrates how much wisdom and love he embodied in the world as a senior. Children wrote him loving, impassioned letters; I’m sure these kids will never consider slaughtering a senior horse, if any horse at all. Brock taught kindness and gentleness.

          Re: Sedation before death. Even if stunning worked (which it doesn’t), horses experience so much pain and horror at auction and in transport, slaughter would not be much more humane. See http://www.kaufmanzoning.net for USDA photos of transport injuries. For a start, some kill buyers gouge out stallions’ eyes to make them “manageable.”

  2. Vivian, I’m not a vegetarian, but I too find Temple Grandin’s work hugely problematic. It seems to me that due to her autism, she can be swayed to either side’s argument. Autistic people are characteristically emotionless and unable to form connections with other living beings. Dr. Grandin has stated she has no desire for relationships and finds social conversation “boring.” She has stated repeatedly that she draws her conclusions about what animals are experiencing, from behavioral and vocal cues.

    Unlike most of us, who can experience euphoria and even ecstasy simply from gazing into another’s eyes, whether they be human or animal. I don’t need behavioral and vocal cues to know a horse is terrified; prey animals just as often “freeze” as flee or fight. I can read emotion in the roll of an eye, and most importantly—put myself in the other creature’s place.

    I know how I would feel, torn away from my home, herded with other frightened strangers, beaten, shocked, inundated with the smells of blood and metal and the screams of the tortured. This is called empathy. This is another characteristic autistics lack.

    Dr. Grandin’s disability has her rolling from pillar to post, from pro-slaughter to anti-slaughter. In a sense, we ALL use her. We exploit her. When I am happy with her, I quote her. When I am not, I drag out her shortcomings.

    Regarding her comment that only 20% of slaughter plants meet humane guidelines: In both Canada and the US, a 5% fail rate is permissible in stunning. Imagine what it means that according to Dr. Grandin (and now I am on HER side. See? Problematic), 80% of facilities butcher more than 5 out of every 100 animals alive. It grinds me that she never follows up with the statement that even the “humane” guidelines are absolutely unacceptable. In order to “feel” that only 100% stun is acceptable, you’d have to have empathy. Which she doesn’t. And this is the characteristic the pro-slaughter people exploit.

    Because even though most of them may not have an official diagnosis of autism, they lack empathy as well. And as we saw before and during the “Summit of the Horse,” they lack moral centre. In their business dealings, in their statements to the media, in the way they misrepresented Dr. Grandin.

    As a group, I would wager a guess that pro-slaughter folks are psychopathic. Dr. David Hare, a world renowned expert on psychopathology, says this mental illness affects 10% of the populace. The apparent difference between autism and psychopathology, is that the autistic was born without empathy, but may have a moral centre. The psychopath tends to develop an abnormal psychology due to traumatic experiences and personal choices. Psychopathology is somewhat treatable; autism is not.

    In all our heated dialogues about horse slaughter, one thing strikes me as missing. Though we needfully illustrate the horrors of slaughter with dramatic photos and descriptions, the betrayal of the horse does not start at the plant, or even on the arduous journey to. It begins when we make the decision that our friend and workmate will die alone. That the creature who has softly nickered for us, carried us on its back, birthed foals in our barn, is abandoned at the crucial hour. Such a friend deserves nothing less than gentle hands and a soft death. And we deserve to experience that final moment, for it is sacred.

    Anyone who decides to send a horse to slaughter, has already shut down the characteristic that differentiates them from psychopaths or autistics: empathy. Just as sadly, they live in a spiritual void.

    I’ve grown a bit weary of directing to people graphic videos and explaining each moment of agonizing butchery. I need a rest. I need a break from listening to Temple Grandin waver on whether horse slaughter is humane. For a while, at least, I will simply answer pro-slaughter statements with, “You would abandon a friend at their death?”

    Their reaction will let me know whether they are gentle enough, empathetic enough, human enough, to have a place in my life.

    1. Exactly why we do not use Temple Grandin, and have to date let the question as to why we are so opposed to her work go unanswered. People are foolish to rely on what she says for or against animal slaughter. We can now simply refer to our post, and move on.

      1. I’d like to clarify: Just as with autism, psychopathology presents on a scale. Persons with autism range from those who need constant personal care, to independent professionals. Psychopaths range from (the most uncommon) serial killers to people who can, in a shallow way, manage intimate relationships but are callous about destroying the environment, torturing lab animals, exploiting vulnerable workers, etc. Dr. Hare says the majority of “functional” psychopaths are doctors and lawyers.

        1. Off subject of horses, having worked for lawyers, you won’t get much argument from me. Perhaps that is what has brought standards to all time low in US Congress. Stocked full of lawyers.

    2. Dear Reisa Stone that was beautifully written with Love and Knowledge of the Magnificent Horse……………….I thank You I could not have said it any better then you did………………………………… Slaughter can never ever be Humane it can only be what is………….. There cannot be any debates on it …………………. no contest it is ugly, horrific and disgusting and should never be used along in reference with anything that breathes………………………………….

  3. Truer words could not be spoken. I especially like the fact that this writer included ALL animals who are slaughtered for food, not just horses. N0 one should be eating ANY kind of meat/flesh foods.
    Grandin is not an ivory tower intellectual; she knows exactly what she is doing, and also realizes full well that her recommendations for “humane slaughter” will never be implemented by most facilities. But she is well rewarded for providing a respectable front for the dirty business of slaughter.
    Her claims that her autism help her understand how animals think and feel is ludicrous. If this were true, she would be making the point that animals want to live, not die, and would be advocating against any slaughter at all.
    Like most humans, she rationalizes what she wants.

  4. I’ve been through a cattle slaughter house. The only good thing I can say about it is, it was quick. The animal’s head was restrained and the bolt did it’s job each and every time. The animal was strung up by a back leg and it’s throat slashed. The blood came out in 2 gushes and the animals was dead. This was happening very fast and the stunner never missed, nor the man with the knife. I will never go through one again. I colapsed in tears and had to be taken out. I couldn’t bear to see this done to horses. I would lose my mind. I have seen the videos of horses being slaughtered. Not anywhere near as well done as the cattle. Horse slaughter is vile and cruel and Ms. Grandin cannot know what she’s talking about. Even the above picture shows her drawing away from the horse as if she is afraid of it. Horse slaughter must end!

    1. I agree with you, Maggie. This is just the point we’ve been trying to make about the difference in horses and cattle. No one is saying it’s euphoric for cattle, BUT….the captive bolt almost ALWAYS does it’s job in one shot – which is the law – but with horses it almost NEVER takes only one shot. Sometimes it takes as many as four. And, horses come to in about 30 seconds.

      The horses’ brain may be similar to cattle and pigs, but the differences are crucial. The horse’s brain is recessed, which is another reason why so many aren’t properly stunned, especially with a non-invasive captive bolt. Also, the shot must come from a completely different angle than with cattle. Some “kill boxes” designed for cattle actually make taking the proper angle impossible.

      I think we would all agree that horses are more than “a bit flighty.” Compared to cattle, horses are stark raving mad. They are exquisitely sensitive creatures of flight, with a hair trigger on the flight response. In fact, the very AVMD document that claimed the captive bolt was humane for horses actually said the captive bolt CAN be humane for horses provided proper head restraint is utilized and the operator is well trained. Need I say more about how THIS is misquoted?

      Dr. Grandin MAY understand cattle – or think she does – but she doesn’t have a clue about horses. All this besides the glaring inconsistencies.

  5. Vivian: I agree with your take on Grandin. I urge everyone to start visiting your politicians and legislative representatives. The laws need to be studied and if they fall short, they need to be changed. It is obvious that if they can get away with it – they will. The majority of US citizens are opposed to slaughter. Their voice should rule. And will. This goes for the wild horses and burros also. The regulations are loopy allowing broad discretion. The controls of uour voice are not refected in the power of law. This has got to change as well.

  6. I agree with all of the statements above. You cannot humanley slaughter anything. Slaughter is just as you defined, vicious, horrific, violent. Anyone who has ever been around horses will tell you that they think, feel, and hurt just like all amimals just like my horse Baron did when he figured out how to open the latch on the paddock gate. He didn’t do it by just standing there, he figured out how to do it and did it many times over until I had to find a different way to keep him in the paddock while I was cleaning his stall. I think Dr. Grandin has been in the books too long and needs to get out into the real world. Yes, she may be educated but she obviously has no compassion or heart for anyone for anything. I can’t respect anyone who let themselves be used by the BLM and Slaughter industry CEOs or a supposed representative of Wyomings People who advocates slaughter as well. I do not believe for one minuite that the people of Wyoming will ever support Sue Wallis again either. Dr. Grandin thinks with her cold textbooks and should never be allowed to practice veterinary medicine. I certainly would not want her around my animals.

  7. Vivian, you are absolutely right. There is no such thing in our world as humane slaughter. Of any animal…horse or other. Anywhere. I am constantly saddened by my country’s refusal to do anything about our abbattoirs to the world…horses are sent here, in horrific transport, to be slaughtered at one of our plants, Bouvry, or one of the others. There is documentary evidence of the horrors they face. No one is doing anything and the police refused to lay charges. Alex Atamenenko is trying to get horse slaughter banned here…please visit the Canadian Horse Defence site to help. Dr. Grandin has done many things in her life to be proud of, but her work on slaughter is not one of them, and I sincerely wish she had stayed away from the recent Summit of the Horse, and instead, put her knowledge to use in the fight against the butchery. To see her used by the BLM and pro slaughter people like Sue Wallis, to see her let herself be used, has altered my entire perception of her work…I wish more people could see it that way too. Thank you for your article. I have hardened my heart further, and realize my gut feelings about her were probably right from the start.

  8. All animals suffer greatly during the slaughtering process. She should go to one of the slaughter houses and see the fear, pain, hopelessness in these poor animals eyes. She needs to look beyond biology of horses, they are more than just a body.

  9. I must say I totally agree with you !!! Slaughter can never ever be humane , it is what it is !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just as your definition says…………… Anyone understanding this could never condone it , under any circumstances…………………. You cant sugar coat the reality of it !!!!

  10. MAYBE I WILL MAKE A LOT OF PEOPE MAD BUT I REALLY DON’T CARE. I DO RESPECT OR HOLD DR GRANDIN IN HIGH ESTEEM. ANYONE WHO DEVOTES THEIR LIFE TO FINDING THE BEST WAY SO THEY THINK TO KILLING AN ANIMAL IS AWAY OUT THERE. TO SAY THAT HORSES DO NOT HAVE FEELINGS, DO NOT SUFFER, OR UNDERSTAND IS ONE WHO DOES NOT KNOW THE ANIMAL. THE HORSE DEFINITELY UNDERSTAND WHEN HE IS GOING TO DIE AND HAS A DEEP FEAR. DEVOTING YOUR LIFE TO FINDING THE MOST HUMANE WAY TO KILL AN ANIMAL IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF.

    1. My God, Understanding the horse, and his feelings, we know that he fully understands he is going to die, makes Slaughter totally unacceptable, this practice under this known fact is cruelty beyond any definition and unimaginable horror for them, therefore needs to be abolished immediately !!! Anyone condoning should be Horse whipped……………………and made to suffer in the same way !

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