Think about it. Cattle get branded and tagged and slaughtered. Some live only a year or two. Meanwhile, Fido gets the run of the house, a spot in front of the couch, and chew toys.
You might be surprised to know that many cattle have it better than pampered family pets. That’s the claim Temple Grandin makes in her fascinating and practical book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals.
Grandin is not a beef industry lobbyist working smoke and mirrors PR to make ranchers look good. She’s a practical, down-to-earth, get-your-hands-dirty animal scientist who has revolutionized the beef industry and had an impact on many others. She isn’t a vegetarian, and has no intention to become one. But she does love animals. And her insight and research has made the lives of millions of animals better.
When people ask her how she can work in the beef industry instead of being an activist against it, she says that all things die. It’s the cycle of life. She has no problem eating animals. In fact, she believes that our relationship with the animals we use for food is symbiotic–mutually beneficial. But she also believes that if we’re going to raise them, or keep them as pets, we need to give these animals a quality life.
So what do animals need for a quality life? Should we give our cattle rubdowns? Let our dogs roam through city streets? What do our cats and pigs and horses need? Is it freedom?
Her answer, surprisingly, is that focusing on freedom really isn’t a good guide for trying to give animals a good life. Not because freedom is a bad thing, but because it’s too confusing. Instead, she believes that we should be basing animal welfare on the core, or what she calls the “blue ribbon,” emotion systems in the brain. The key systems are SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, PANIC, and PLAY.
The rule is simple: avoid stimulating the negative emotions; do stimulate the positive ones. In the book she shares what she knows about how to do that for dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other poultry, wildlife, and animals in zoos.
Grandin is always fascinating, and with her trademark style of stories and practical insights, she shares what the research and her more than 30 years of practical hands-on experience working with animals has taught her. You’ll learn why your chickens need a place to hide, even if you’ve fenced out every fox and skunk with thirty feet of concrete; what makes pigs happy; why clicker training is so successful with horses; why you might want to consider the color of your cat’s fur; why leaving your dog locked in the house with food and plenty of toys may actually be very stressing. You’ll even learn to look at zoo habitats differently. Each chapter focuses on a different animal and how to avoid the negative and stimulate the positive blue ribbon emotions. This is not touchy-feely fluff. It’s not the ranting and raging of someone who thinks the planet would be better of without humans. It’s the insights of someone who is rigorously scientific, down-to-earth practical, and passionate about animals.
In her own words: “Everyone who is responsible for animals needs a set of simple, reliable guidelines for creating good mental welfare that can be applied to any animal in any situation.” Read her book to find out what she suggests these should be. If you own pets or raise animals, I think you’ll love this read. If you’d like to sample the first chapter, you can at Grandin’s website: http://www.grandin.com/