Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book Review: Animals Make Us Human

Title Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Author Temple Grandin
Rating ****1/2

I've only recently heard about Temple Grandin, that she is a woman with autism and that there has just been a movie made about her life. So this is the first of her books that I've read. Grandin has a PhD in animal science and has spent much of her life working with farmers, ranchers, and meat handlers to make life easier for the animals that end up as food.

In this book she has chapters she starts with some of what neurological studies of animals have shown, including what emotions animals feel All tend to be have the same positive and negative emotions. The main positive emotion is seeking, which is mostly curiosity about the environment. Other emotions are rage, fear, panic, lust, care, and play. So Grandin tries to privide animals with environments that stimulate the positive seeking, lust, care and play emotions and do not trigger fear, panic, and rage. This isn't entirely cut and dried, though, as she thinks puppies, for example, need to learn to tolerate some frustration in order to learn they can't always get what they want right away.

She has chapters on different kinds of animals most important to humans as pets, co-workers, companions, and even food. The chapters cover dogs, cats, horses, pigs, cattle, chickens and other poultry, zoos, and then a chapter on why she works with the food industry. All of it is organized around explaining what gives all of these animals the best possible life. She shows that not only do individual animals differ -everyone who has had more than one pet knows that - but that different kinds of animals have different social structures and needs. She is also willing to challenge conventional wisdom. In the chapter on dogs, for instance, she reveals that most of what we think we know about wolves and dominance hierarchies is wrong. Wolves in the wild live in families of dad, mom, and pups. There isn't a whole lot of dominance shown between mom and dad, and siblings almost never fight for dominance. Dominance hierarchies do come into play between wolves and dogs when animals that aren't part of a family group are forced to live together and figure out how to get along. She believes it is more natural, though, for dog owners to think of themselves more as parents than pack alphas. The end result is somewhat the same - teaching the dog manners and how to accept boundaries.

Grandin has been heavily criticized for some animal activists for working with the food industry. I honor her for it... she knows that it will be a long time, if ever, before humans stop breeding animals for meat, and what she has done is figure out way of making the animals' lives better. That seems to me to be a worthy goal, though she admits that the most difficult part of making those lives better is to train those who deal with the animals in behaviors they don't always find easy.

This book is a fine one and I plan to read Grandin's books about her childhood and her autism.


Author – Johnson, Catherine
Publication Mariner Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 360 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 0547248237 / 9780547248233

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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