let's talk farm animals

An evening with Dr. Temple Grandin

by Kelly Daynard

If we’re fortunate, there’ll be a few times in our lives when we feel like we’re in the presence of greatness.
By greatness, I’m not referring to fame because these days, it’s clear that anyone can be famous without doing a single meaningful thing in their lives (the number of celebrity debutantes in the media can attest to that). I’m referring to that opportunity to meet someone who has made a real difference in the lives of others and who, in some way, has changed the world.

That opportunity happened for about 200 people in Mississauga (and another 100 4-H members watching online) last week when Dr. Temple Grandin appeared as the keynote speaker at an event sponsored by the Farm & Food Care Foundation (www.farmcarefoundation.ca).

Dr. Temple Grandin

If you raise livestock or work in animal agriculture in North America and haven’t heard of Dr. Grandin, you’ve been living under a rock. An internationally-recognized expert in and advocate of humane animal treatment, Dr. Grandin has worked with companies throughout North America on how to better care for their livestock. She is also the inventor of a livestock handling system used by more than half of the meat processors in Canada and the United States.  In 2010, Time Magazine named Dr. Grandin as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”.

Autistic herself, she is world-renowned as an inspiration to people with autism as well as being known for her pioneering work to improve animal welfare practices on the farm, in transit and at processing facilities.   HBO also produced an award-winning biographical film on her life that went on to win both an Emmy and a Golden Globe award in 2010.

Dr. Grandin spent much of her lecture challenging the audience to do a better job of telling agriculture’s story to the public. What’s needed, she said, is to “open the house electronically” and show the public what’s happening on farms. To use another example, Grandin asked, “If you brought your wedding guests in there (your barn), are you proud of it or are you squirming?” If it’s the latter, she recommends taking a close look at your farming operation and making the changes needed that would be acceptable to guests.

Grandin’s also a strong proponent of posting videos to her website and YouTube that focus on different aspects of good animal handling for the public to see and learn from even if some of the topics may be difficult to watch.

In talking with a lot of media in Hollywood after the Temple Grandin movie came out, she said that the press’s main questions all focused around “how things work on farms”. She said that they were curious – not condemning - and very interested in the opportunity to learn more about livestock handling.

Grandin was asked a number of questions by members of the audience about the HBO movie and gave credit to its makers for accurately portraying her life. “I think they did a fantastic job,” she said. “Claire Danes really became me in the 60’s and 70’s.”

If Grandin hadn’t been given the opportunity to spend time on her aunt’s ranch as a child – an experience that developed her love for animals, she says that she doesn’t know how her life would have been shaped.  For the entire livestock industry, which has been unequivocally changed by her work, we’re all better for her achievements.

Grandin’s presentation also focused on a number of tips related to caring for livestock. We’ll cover those in a subsequent blog.



Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 14th, 2012 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal care,animal handling,Education and public awareness,Meat/slaughter plants,Speaking out,Temple Grandin,Uncategorized
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