An Ode to Temple Grandin

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To say that we are big fans of Temple Grandin would be an understatement. Grandin, a scientist and animal welfare advocate (as well as an advocate for the autistic community, within which she is included) has written two books that are close to our hearts: Animals Make Us Humans (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) and Animals in Translation (Harvest Books, 2006). Perhaps this seems strange coming from butchers, but Grandin is the kind of advocate that makes sense to us. She does not try to stop the slaughter of animals for meat but has, instead, worked within the industry to change standards and create laws to protect the animals that eventually end up as our dinner. Grandin has been fighting for animals since the 1970s, but her most famous work began in 1991, when the American Meat Institute (AMI) set its own guidelines for animal handling and then turned to Grandin to help reform an obviously broken system.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the late 1990s, Grandin began to audit slaughterhouses, devising a scoring system that allowed her to assess these plants and check their compliance with government and industry standards. Most plants failed to measure up, but what emerged was a system that allowed any auditor to rank a facility. In contrast to the USDA's own flawed inspection system, these privately conducted audits continue to provide a clear approach to humane animal handling. In 1997, McDonald's named her its key animal welfare adviser, and within just three years, extraordinary improvements were made in the slaughterhouses that McDonald's employs.

Grandin has some strange bedfellows; even PETA supports her methodology at times. (For an animal rights perspective on her work, check out Animal People News.) Grandin's own website is not for the faint of heart, but it provides important information for anyone who cares about improving the treatment of animals in a sometimes grossly inhumane industry.