An animal-welfare expert told a Fresno State audience Friday that humans need to be better observers of animal behavior to reduce their stress and minimize harm.
Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., and well known in animal-welfare circles, spoke in the Satellite Student Union to an estimated 800 people.
Grandin’s speech focused on making sure people learn how to be good observers when it comes to working with animals.
“They pick up on your body language,” Grandin said, explaining that animals are what she calls “sensory-based” thinkers.
You’ve got to make sure there isn’t bad welfare.
Temple Grandin, animal science professor
Grandin has autism and explained that early in her life she wanted to prove she was able to do more than what anyone may have thought possible.
At age 15, Grandin saw beef cattle for the first time, and instantly, “that’s how I got interested” in animal science, she said. She used her brief background to explain to the audience the importance of allowing children to choose their own career paths.
Grandin uses her autism to relate to animals and their different behaviors, and shares with the public the methods she has learned to reduce stress in animals.
Grandin said animals have emotions, and that just like people they may often become afraid and stressed.
Getting animals familiar with their surroundings is key, Grandin said, because unfamiliar environments cause fear.
“An animal doesn’t think in words” Grandin said. “If you want to understand animals, get away from words.”
What is known to scare animals must be removed, she added.
Grandin also discussed the welfare of animals used in the agriculture and food industries.
“You’ve got to make sure there isn’t bad welfare,” Grandin said. “A bunch of skinny (and) starving cattle, that is really bad welfare.”
Grandin said she has noticed agriculture is often separated from consumers. Just as she encourages the public to take better care of animals, Grandin also said it is important for production companies to “open their doors” to show the public what goes on.
Grandin explained her work with many farms and slaughterhouses and how she helped identify areas for improvement in animal care.
“I eat meat and I have no intention of giving it up,” Grandin said. “But we’ve got to treat animals right.”
Grandin explained that her work eventually led to fewer mistreated animals and better conditions for animals used for consumption.
She is down to earth.
Kelsey Dugan, agriculture education student at Fresno State.
Eventually, Grandin said, cages were fixed and broken equipment at factories was repaired.
“I think we have to look at everything we do and ask ‘How is this going to play on You Tube,’ ” Grandin said.
Ellery Vincent, president of the Fresno State Animal Welfare Club, which sponsored the speech, said having Grandin at the university was like “a real-life version” of a film students are required to watch in the Introduction to Animal Science course.
“She is the foremost expert in animal welfare, so it was a really big deal for the people in the central (San Joaquin) Valley to have her come,” Vincent said.
Club member Kelsey Dugan, an agriculture education major, was also fascinated to hear Grandin.
“I true-heartedly adore” Grandin, Dugan said. “She is down to earth.”
Dugan, who has a disability that prevents her from processing information quickly, said she can relate to Grandin “on several levels.”
With service dog Kona at her side, Dugan said, “It was really nice to hear her validate service animals several times throughout her speech.”