On the Horizon: Thinking in Pictures

The first time I met the focus of today’s video blog, I didn’t know quite what to think. I was sitting in an out of state conference, when Temple Grandin sat down beside me. Decked out in a pair of wranglers and an embroidered pearl snap western shirt she did stand out a bit. Actually a lot.

Fast forward a few years, and I send a TV crew to Colorado to interview a leading animal behaviorist, and guess who is there in her pearl snaps. Dr. Grandin is widely credited as driving force in the humane treatment of animals in slaughter houses. (Interesting note: while many people in the meat industry refer to animal slaughter as “harvesting” Temple says such semantics are bunk. She says not only should the industry not try to “sanitize” what’s going on, but slaughter houses should have cameras set up to webcast the entire process.)

To fully understand Temple’s impact on the meat industry you need to understand her background. Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and diagnosed with autism in 1950. Having been labeled with brain damage at age two, she was placed in a structured nursery school with what she considers to have been good teachers. Grandin’s mother spoke to a doctor who suggested speech therapy, and she hired a nanny who spent hours playing turn-based games with Grandin and her sister.

At age four, Grandin began talking, and making progress. She considers herself lucky to have had supportive mentors from primary school onwards. However, Grandin has said that middle and high school were the worst parts of her life. She was the “nerdy kid” whom everyone teased. At times, while walking down the street, people would taunt her by saying “tape recorder,” because she would repeat things over and over again. Grandin says that, “I could laugh about it now, but back then it really hurt.”

After graduating from Hampshire Country School, a boarding school for gifted children in Rindge, New Hampshire, in 1966, Grandin went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Franklin Pierce College in 1970, her master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975, and her doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.

Grandin is considered a philosophical leader of both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. Both movements commonly cite her work regarding animal welfare, neurology, and philosophy. She knows all too well the anxiety of feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings, and of being dismissed and feared, which motivates her in her quest to promote humane livestock handling processes.

Take a look at this week’s video blog. I am interested in what you think.
Rob McClendon