Friday Book Club: Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

SWT-Book-ClubsWelcome to our July Book club – every week in July we’ll be discussing Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin. This online book club goes hand in hand with an in-person book club that meets monthly at Arden Dimick Library.  In May, June, and July we read books that had to do with animals, in keeping with the “Paws to Read” Summer Reading Program at Sacramento Public Library.  Our previous books were The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, and  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Join us in person on Sunday, July 13, 2014!  We will be at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento at 2PM for the Arden Dimick Book Club.  

Temple Grandin is a women with autism who has become famous for her work in making slaughterhouses more humane.  As she became well-known for being able to figure out was bothering animals (often a very small thing, as when she describes a herd of cattle being spooked by a white plastic water bottle on a dark brown dirt floor) she became asked to consult in many areas of the animal food industry as well as zoos.  Temple has an interesting attitude towards her work.  She loves animals but has no problem with them being used for food.  what she objects to is their being made to endure fear, anxiety, or pain.  “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right.  We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death.  We owe the animals respect”.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin suggests that her success with animals is directly tied to her autism, because both animals and people with autism tend to focus on detail.  When Temple is asked to visit a facility and explain why the pigs won’t move through a chute, she gets down on all fours in the chute and tries to perceive what the pig would notice.  In this example it was sparkles of light reflecting off the wet floor that was scaring the pigs, a problem that wwas solved by adjusting the lighting.  She’s able to hone in on small details that most people take for granted as we incorporate the detail into a bigger picture.  “Autism made school and social life hard, but it made animals easy”.

Temple Grandin has gone from being unable to speak (until the age of four) to being a renewed expert on animal behavior and rights for people with autism.  Many of her books focus on animals but several focus more exclusively on her experiences with autism, including Thinking in Pictures:  My Life With AutismThe Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Aspergers; and The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.  She has a PhD in Animal Science.

Temple Grandin has become not only an animal welfare advocate but powerful advocate for people with autism.  while she recognizes that some forms of autism are terribly debilitating, she is adamant that we should not ignore the fact that autism can confer some advantages:

“In an ideal world the scientist should find a method to prevent the most severe forms of autism but allow the milder forms to survive. After all, the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie who chipped away at rocks while the other people socialized around the campfire. Without autism traits we might still be living in caves.”

― Temple GrandinThinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism

If you want to learn about Temple Grandin’s life, you can turn to the biopic from HBO which starred Claire Danes: Temple Grandin.  Here’s a trailer:

 

 

 

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