Temple Grandin: Heroine or Threat?

Temple Grandin, (portrayed on TV by Claire Danes in a Golden Globe-winning performance,) will be speaking about animal welfare at a conference in Virginia this week.  Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University and a leading advocate for autism awareness.   A person with high-functioning autism herself, she has written extensively about autism.

In addition to her work with autism,  she is well-known for her work with livestock, specifically as a consultant to the meat industry on how to redesign corrals and slaughterhouses to be more “humane” and “decent.”

Grandin credits her experiences with autism with her ability to empathize with the experiences of animals and therefore design enclosures and restraints that are less stressful.

All of her speaking, consulting, and writing has made her a celebrity in recent years and so when it was announced that she would be speaking at the Virginia Winter Forage Conference this week, reservations went through the roof and all of her talks sold out.  Grandin will give two talks per day for three days on animal handling and welfare.

One simply cannot help but respect the work that Temple Grandin does on the issue of autism. An undeniably intelligent woman with extensive education as well as a lifetime of personal experience, she is obviously the person to lead the way on that issue.

She certainly is no friend to animals, however. Dr. Grandin represents the exact opposite direction of people like Gary Francione and others like him who work from the abolitionist point of view on animal rights. Grandin explicitly states that she believes eating animals is ethical as long as we implement devices and designs like hers to minimize animal suffering.

This viewpoint cannot fundamentally change the fate of animals because it persists in the view that animals are objects and not sentient beings. She argues a seemingly contradictory case in her essay “Animals Are Not Things.” She argues that animals should remain as property and that legal protections for animals should be based on what we understand their level of neural complexity to be. 

She openly admits that this logic falls apart when applied to a mentally handicapped child that may have less mental capacity than animals we choose to slaughter.  If you were headed for a brutal and horrifying death, Temple Grandin would want to give you an escalator to spare you the stress of walking up stairs. 

People flock to Grandin’s ideas because she gives people an easy way out. She gives consumers the moral justification to continue a lifestyle that they are reluctant to give up. Grandin is a winning lottery ticket for industries that profit from the murder of animals because she designs slaughterhouses that earn her awards from animal advocacy organizations. She is a seal of approval from the “good guys” to continue the slaughter.

The only real way to fundamentally improve the well being of animals is to fight against the idea that animals are property and that their lives and deaths are inconsequential.

Related Stories: 

Abolition or Regulation? New Book on the Animal Rights Debate

People Buy Less Meat Thanks to Animal Welfare News Coverage

Temple Grandin: Savant or Professional Killer?


Photo: jurvetson


Michelle S.
Michelle S6 years ago

I have always had mixed emotions regarding this woman. I agree with Rooibos. She may have come up with a novel way in which to make slaughter less stressful, but she is no friend to animals. Were she to advocate against the eating of cow flesh altogether, then she would have earned...and deserved...such a moniker. No "hero," Temple Grandin.

Eddie C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Virginia please notice this last post was for you. Just in case you missed it.

Eddie C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Lets take a look at the "God" thing, You say God tells you to kill animals and eat them. If you think about it, I am sure you can imagine Adam and Eve walking just as God made them in the Garden of Eden, and then comes God, and tells them to bash the brains out of any animal they think looks tasty. Is that right? God said, "I know you have never known violence, and there is no hatred in your heart, but here, take this club, and beat this creature until it stops screaming and its life leaves its body." "Then rip off one of its limbs and eat its blood."
Does that sound about what you have dreamed God told Adam to do? What else could he have done? Nothing….
Virginia, your twisting of the proverbs alone guarantees you a place in hell if there is such a place. I have never before seen such blatant lies in my life. You might want to step away from the religion thing before you get struck by lightning.
"You'll have to wait a while for Satan to invent guns and weapons of death, so for now, you will have to use those huge fangs and the razor sharp claws I designed you with to capture and kill prey with till then." "You can rip the heart out of any creature, leave its children to starve, take its skin, but this apple is a big no-no."

Eddie C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Anybody else hear dueling banjos here? People proclaiming to have he best interests of the animals involved. Temple has designed conveyor systems that help slaughter houses murder animals faster than ever, and make more money. sounds wonderful, unless you are an animal.
I am sure you don't think so, but I came from a common ancestor that every other mammal on the face of this earth came from once upon a time. Every creature who walks this planet, and lifts its eyes to the heavens is the same. Don't accuse me of humanizing animals, because that would be an insult to animals.

Margie R.
Margie R.6 years ago

We all agree that there "should" be peace in the world. But what have YOU done to end war in this country or any other? Were you effective, did fewer people feel agony and panic?
Those who want all meat eating to stop are sure to fail. Could you educate even one country that now has meat-eating in its culture, to change their ways?
Dammit, stop criticizing Temple Grandin because 'all' she has done is educate an entire industry, to reduce the fear of the animals, to reduce time they spend in an atmosphere of death. Humane slaughter may be a contradiction...until you understand how its been done by the the workers, for many years.

Lucy H.
Lucy E6 years ago

Another militant vegan who cannot see past her agenda. What a surprise!

Virginia R.
Virginia R.6 years ago

The Bible is the basis of truth from the Creator of the universe and all animals. Read Acts.10:9-14. It states that Jesus(the Lord) created all things and we can kill and eat them. That calling meat unclean comes from our unclean hearts, not because the meat itself is unclean. It also states in Proverbs that the righteous man takes care of the needs of his animals, which includes being treated with kindness and given a painless and quick death.
How many of you animal rights vegans are going to keep a cow or sheep for a pet for 15-20 years - vet bills and all. Not many!! I raised several goats and as kids they were a lot of fun , but when they got to be adults they were just goats. As adults they provide meat and dairy products and are good at keeping vegetation controlled.
The animals who are eaten and/or useful are the ones who are best taken care of.The many breeds of cattle, sheep, and horses were developed by humans who made a living from them by dairy products, meat, or, as beasts of burden or war,etc. Wild animals that provide meat through hunting are prospering. Many hunters know more about wildlife management than city vegans who wouldn't have a clue about their life habits and how to keep the wild populations healthy. One way is to prevent overpopulations, which is done by hunting.
If everyone became vegans the animal population(livestock and wildlife) would be one tenth % of what it is today as these are not animals that you can keep in your backyard.

Julia Waller
Julia Waller6 years ago

Although I do not eat meat I think one has to be realistic and accept that the meat trade is highly unlikely to cease unless meat became a health risk to humans. Realising this isn't it better to try and make the slaughter of animals as humane as possible? What drives me mad is exporting animals for long journeys at the end of which they arrive exhausted and dehydrated and are then often slaughtered without any form of stunning. Religious & kosher slaughter should be banned wherever possible and live animal exports should stop. That at least would be a start . For goodness sake leave Temple Grandin alone she does a good job in a thankless world.

Rooibos Bird
Eva Ries6 years ago

This woman is no less than a hypocrite and at worse, a fraud.

She's no friend at all to animals as all she's done is devise a feint in order to keep the animals "calmer" as they are marched off to death - a completely cruel and unnecessary fate - similar to the fate of humans marched to their deaths at concentration camps in the past. That she failed MISERABLY to see this is stunning.

She claims to "understand" animals and care about them, but is instead a willing and complicit accomplice to the torture and abuse the animal industries force on other species.

Grandin's "work" will result in NOTHING but the industry's smug, self-righteous retort that they are "doing their best to make slaughter more humane." There is no such thing as "humane slaughter," it's an oxymoron in terminology and would NEVER be applied to a human.

Grandin could have used her unique situation to advocate on behalf of animals, to point out how much they really do suffer, and lobbied for social change in our own species' understanding and actions toward other species. But, instead, she showed her hand by revealing glimpses of pathological tendencies in the way she herself treated the other species, by admitting she was cold, remorseless, and merely saw the creatures as a means to an end.

She's no hero.

monica r.
monica r7 years ago

@Amber K
"I also agree to what Deborah S is saying, she quite rightly points out that, to an extent animals depend on us (for shelter food etc) as much as we require them to be a very important food source."


A dog, two hermit crabs, three mice, four rats, several fish, and a bird have all depended on me for food and shelter. I did not require any of them to be a food source. The dog and rats were extremely social companions with whom I enjoyed play and frequent interaction; literally part of the family. The mice (who hated to be picked up), fish, and bird weren't as tame but were given as good a home as possible and certainly gave me joy. The dog was a stray, two rats were pet store rats; the other two were from people needing to find them homes, as were the mice and bird. The goldfish I'm not sure cause I was a kid but they had names and we had them a long time. I've also had animal friends who "belong" to someone else.

This does not count numerous wildlife animals I helped as a rehabber. Never ate any of them either.

The logic doesn't hold up. We don't eat dogs and cats and horses, etc. We feed and house them, though.