Dr. Temple Grandin explains why she thinks it's okay to eat meat:
Human beings have an intrinsic bond with animals, but our treatment of animals has ranged from respectful to horrendous. Scientific research indicates that animals have emotions and they feel pain and fear. It is our duty to provide the animals that we raise for food with a decent life. I often get asked, “How can you care about animals and be involved in designing systems in slaughter houses that are used to kill them?” I answered this question in 1990, after I had just completed installation of a new piece of equipment I had designed for handling cattle at slaughter plants. I was standing on a catwalk, as hundreds of cattle passed below to enter my system. In a moment of insight, I thought, none of the cattle going into my system would have existed unless people had bred and raised them.
Our relationship with the cattle should be symbiotic. Symbiosis is a biological concept of a mutually beneficial relationship between two different species. There are many examples of symbiosis or mutualism in nature. One example is ants tending aphids to obtain their sugary secretion and in return, they are protected from predators. Unfortunately the relationship is not always symbiotic and in some cases, the ants exploit the aphids. There are similar problems in poorly managed, large intensive agriculture systems. There are some production practices that must be changed. In the cattle industry, I know many people who are true stewards of both their animals and their land. Their relationship with both the animals and the land is truly symbiotic. It is mutually beneficial to both the animals and the environment. Killing animals for food is ethical if the animals have what the Farm Animal Welfare Council in England calls a life worth living.
Salon's Thomas Rodgers has published an interesting and wide-ranging interview with Dr. Temple Grandin about her new book, Different . . . Not Less, which collects the stories of neurodiverse people who have had been successfully employed:
The thing that motivated me to to put it together is seeing way too many people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s not getting jobs and making transitions to adult life. Having worked in a technical field my whole adult life, I think, “Where are the aspies?” I think about people I went to college with, the geeky kids, different kids. One of the things hurting people with Asperger’s today is they’re not being taught social skills from old people on the spectrum who managed to be employed their whole life.
So we got about 25 entries [for the book] and I picked half of them. Some of them are people well known in the autism field but I also wanted to have a wide variety of people. They had to be employed their whole life and have an actual diagnosis, but they all had childhood jobs, they all were bullied in school, and I wanted to show that to young people on the spectrum. I didn’t fill it up with happy people in Silicon Valley. There is a person who is a tour guide, a doctor, a psychiatric aide, retail clerk, advertising executive. There’s a real big variety of people, and they talk about how the diagnosis helped them to understand their problems.
There was one person who was a computer lady. Her dad died and she was devastated by that. She got diagnosed because she got depressed. Her boss asked her, “If you’d gotten the diagnosis when you were younger, would you have achieved what you achieved?” The problem with some of the young people on the spectrum is that parents are reluctant to push them out of their comfort zone, and they’re unemployable. I wanted to show in this book that we can succeed.
Dr. Temple Grandin spoke yesterday night in Iowa, drawing hundreds:
Grandin was diagnosed with autism in 1950, a time when many thought autistic people couldn’t be productive citizens. She proved them wrong. Grandin is a best-selling author, Colorado State University professor, and HBO made an award-winning film about her life. “I identify myself as being an animal science college professor first, and autistic second,” said Grandin.
For many Grandin represents hope for a better future. She believes autistic kids can succeed, it will just be hard work. “You got a lot of kids who are kind of quirky and different and they need to be developing their strengths cause who do you think developed the first stone spear? It wasn’t social people it was probably someone with mild autism,” said Grandin.
Video version of this post at the end.
Dear Neurotypical People,
You need us. You need autistic people to help keep moving the world forward. If you would invest more in us, we could bring you incredible things.
Consider Temple Grandin. Over half the beef that people eat in the United States today is processed in plants that she helped to design. Dr. Grandin has been an advocate for treating animals well, which means she has also been an advocate for safe food. She has been able to improve the world because of her genius, which is inextricably linked to her autism, and the fact that she has had opportunities that most autistic people have not had, both in her education and in her career.
We need more autistic people to be given the chance to develop into Temple Grandins. One of the reasons for the flagging Unites States economy is that the push to "efficiency" in the last two decades has meant that many companies have gutted their research and development programs. Smart people are discovering the potential of autistic people to help fill this void.
Consider Jacob Barnett, the young physics prodigy who says without his autism he would not care enough to do his work.
Consider Alan Turing, who very probably saved the world from the Nazis, did as much as anyone else to invent the computer, and almost certainly had autism.
Please invest in us.
Please invest in educating us, rather than medicating us.
We have so much to give you.
And we want so much to have the chance to do that.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Temple Grandin was inducted last night into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Board of Directors Chair Ruby Mayeda praised her achievements:
“She had to overcome a lot of bias. And she literally had to sneak on to feedlots and other locations where females were banned to complete her research when she was going to school. And now today many of students are women so she is a recognize trailblazer in the industry for women,” Mayeda said.