Friday, January 23, 2009

Temple Grandin's Latest is a Winner

Temple Grandin, writing with Catherine Johnson, is the author of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. Together they have produced a new book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado University, but she is best known for her work with the meat industry and with companies such as McDonald's who buy from the meat industry and her efforts to improve the lives of the animals they work with. In fact, she has designed humane and stress-free slaughter systems that are used to process about half of all the cattle in the US and Canada. Her response when asked how she can work with industries that slaughter animals? "Some peole think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal....The most important thing for an animal is the quality of life.

In this new book she talks about her work with the meat industry, but also about her work with zoo keepers, ranchers, farmers, and other animal owners -- including regular old pet owners like you and me. Sometimes, she says, the lives of cattle on their way to slaughter can be better than those of some pets: "Too many dogs are alone all day with no human or dog companions." With all animals, she says, the key is to work with the animal's nature, rather than against it, and to recognize the physical and behavioral signs of both stress and satisfaction to bring out the best in any species.

Many of the observations in this book are based on the work of WSU neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, who has identified a series of core emotion systems in animals. "All animals and people have the asme core emotion systems in the brain," she writes.

Animals Make Us Human is essential reading for anyone who's ever owned, cared for, or simply cared about an animal. It is destined to become a classic in the field of human/animal relationships. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($26).

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