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This is Point of inquiry from Monday, August 27, 2012.
Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Indre Viskontas point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reasons, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. produces and consumes more beef, veal and poultry than any other nation in the world. As a result, the status of animal welfare in the meat production industry is something that every American should be concerned about, regardless of personal dietary habits. One of the world’s leading experts on animal welfare is Colorado State University professor Dr. Temple Grandin, whose work in animal behavior has reshaped livestock handling around the world as the world’s most famous, high functioning autistic person. She has also changed the way that people with autism are treated. In addition to her many scientific publications, she is also the author of several popular books, including Emergence, labeled Autistic Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. The way I see it, a personal look at autism and Asperger’s and animals make us human, creating the best life for animals. Claire Danes won an Emmy and Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Dr. Grandin in the HBO biopic. Temple Grandin. When describing what it’s like for her to navigate complex social relationships, Dr. Granton coined the phrase, I feel like an anthropologist on Mars, which Dr. Oliver Sacks then used as the title of a book in which her story figures prominently. To find out more about the status of animal welfare in the U.S., I have the pleasure of speaking to one of Time magazine’s 2010 most influential people.
Welcome to Point of inquiry. Temple Grandin, it’s great to be here.
We’re absolutely delighted to have you. And I wanted to start out by talking a little bit about how you got into animal science to begin with. You’ve become a world expert in the behavior of animals that too many of us are very foreign, like cattle and pigs. How did you discover that you had a talent for understanding these animals?
Well, when I first started, well, I didn’t know that. Not everybody thinks in pictures the way I do. Well, I found that out deals after I got 10 years or so into the field of animal science. And when you’re a visual thinker, it’s easy to imagine how an animal would view something. So on the very first research I ever did with cattle, I got down the chutes to find out why did the animals not want to walk through the chute? Well, they’d see a shadow. They’d see a hose on the ground, they’d see a reflection. And when I first started looking at these things, you know, thirty five years ago, 40 years ago, people thought that was really kind of crazy. But to me, it just seemed completely obvious. Now, originally, I was an experimental psychology major and I was fascinated with optical illusion. And then I got out to Arizona. And that’s when. I learned all about cattle. But my previous knowledge that I had an optical illusion. And when I was in high school, I built an optical illusion room called the Ames distorted room.
I think that also made me really aware of visual things. You know, I think sometimes it’s good to have crossover between different fields. You know, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of exposing kids to interesting things. I was a really bad student in high school and I didn’t care about studying until I started working with my high school science teacher, Mr. Carlock.
And he exposed me in all kinds of interesting experiments and I got interested. He got exposed kids to interesting things to get them interested in it. And I think that’s so important.
And nowadays, because we have the Internet and all this information around us, it’s easier maybe for kids to find that in that thing that interests them.
Have you found that, you know, the way that you see the world is is different now that we have the Internet or or is it more akin to the way that you view an Asian finding that a lot of people aren’t using the Internet to its fullest extent?
You know, I give a lot of talks, cattle meetings.
I give a lot of talks that autism is good while as a child, you know, and really severe autism and people Tom Flynn they ask me questions that they could easily book up on the Internet and they hadn’t done it. And I think, Don, we need you know, I think kids still need to have good teachers to show them good stuff on the Internet, like right now. The Curiosity Mars rover is going to be landing. And, you know, that’s really, really an exciting thing. Well, I think somebody has to point that out to a kid, because what I think is happening on the Internet today is people are getting too much in their own little world, their Facebook page, their YouTube channel or whatever, and they’re not getting outside their own sort of circle of friends. You know, the whole big wide Internet out there. And there’s a lot of garbage on the Internet, too. And they need to have good teachers to get them exposed to things like the Mars rover landing.
So getting back a little bit to some of your observations of cattle behavior, what was it that you first noticed should be different in the way that cattle are treated in a beef production farm?
Well, the very first things I did is I’d go out to these feed yards where they were running his cattle food chutes to vaccinate them. And I mean, it was just electric prod on every single animal. And I noticed that the animal would stop at a shadow and we’ll feel reactive. Zappos is poking with the electric prod. And I reacted. Well, maybe we can try changing the lighting. Is it. Nobody thought to even think of those things. I mean, now, when I got a meatpacking plant, this got some problems. Amazed at how I can fix it with a piece of the cardboard duct tape and a portable white. So that changed the lighting or I put the cardboard up so I don’t see people walking by. Then they walked right in. I always get asked if they know they’re going to get slaughtered. No, they’re more scared of a moving reflection on the floor. And I discuss this in a number of my publications like my book Humane Livestock Handling my book, Animals in Translation. People just hadn’t thought to look at these things before. Animals are into sensory detail that most people often just don’t notice.
And how did you notice that? Was it similar to the way that you experience the world?
Well, I think my visual thinking helped me out. And this will think he’s continual. I have a story, extreme form of visual thinking. When I design a piece of equipment, I can actually test run that piece of equipment. In my mind, there’s certain mistakes in design I would never make. Like I was appalled when I found out what the Japanese nuclear power plant burned up. Well, they put their emergency generators in the basement and when the water came in, it flooded the diesel generators that run the emergency pump. There’s no way I would put those generators in the basement because I could have visualized what would happen. The water goes in there. And the thing is, people have different kinds of minds. I’m an extreme visual thinker. A lot of scientists are more of a mathematician, thinker, that kind of person that would design. Nuclear reactor. I don’t think they saw it when I was young. I used to be undiplomatic. I said was just stupidity. I don’t think it was stupidity. I don’t think they fleecy it. I can just imagine the water piling in there. And those generators are now under water. I’d see that.
So can you walk us through what it’s like for you to design, say, a new piece of equipment for a farm and how the steps that you go through when you’re visualizing how to how to develop that new design?
First of all, you’ve got to figure out do new need a new piece of equipment or they have some other problem. Just this week, I went out to a pig farm and now we’re having a lot of problems loading pigs. And and I thought, you know, are we sure we actually need a new loading ramp or do they have some other problem? So I went into the barn and when I walked into the pens, the pigs one absolutely crazy. You see a pig differentiate between a person in the alleyway and a person in their pen. And these had pigs had never had a person inside their pen. So when I went into their pen, they got really scared and went crazy. Now I know what you need to do is you need to be walking through the pens and getting the pig accustomed to people walking through them so that when it’s time to load them, they’re not going to go crazy. And that’s probably more important than the new loading ramp would have been. And that was sort of a totally new concept to the farmer.
Yeah, I went to actually talk a little bit about that idea of reducing fear and disassociating a stimulus with a fearful response. You call this or scientists call it desensitization, I believe. Can you talk a little bit about the importance and how desensitization might work?
Well, one of the problems is if you have an animal, a real high-Strung nervous temperament, and he gets a really bad fright and he associates that bad thing, maybe with a person with a beard or associates it with a person with a black hat, you see, that’s a picture. So the animal’s sensory base, so they tend to get afraid of something. They were looking at or they were seeing. Right. The moment of the bad thing happened like an animals in translation. I talk about the horse that was afraid of the black hat because during a veterinary procedure, he was abused by a person wearing a black hat. So he’s a black cowboy hat. He gets really scared. He sees a white cowboy hat. Everything is just fine. Or maybe a baseball hat. That’s just fine. It’s it’s a picture. And you can desensitize an animal, but you can never totally get rid of that fear memory. I mean, that’s what post-traumatic stress syndrome. And and there’s different genetic vulnerabilities. I mean, like some people in some animals are more likely to get post-traumatic, you know, kind of symptoms and other animals sollom, you can desensitize others. It’s difficult to desensitize.
And so what if you have an animal, say, for example, a pet that has been that you think has been abused, that is seems to respond in a fearful manner. How do you figure out what it is? What stimulus it is that that animal’s so afraid of?
Well, the first thing is to be observant. Maybe it’s simply a raised hand. Maybe it’s a piece of newspaper because he was plopped to the newspaper. Maybe he’s afraid of a particular type of shoe. Because when somebody beat him up, he might have been looking at a brown loafer. Well, then a brown loafer would be associated with something bad. You know, sometimes you can figure out the thing you’re afraid of and I can just eliminate it. But other times I have to just work on, you know, gradually desensitizing it. And one of the things to do, let’s say, was afraid of newspapers, for example, you know, I’d try to try to get him to do some of his favorite games and feed him some of his favorite treats feel when there’s a newspaper around and gradually get desensitized so it doesn’t have to be afraid of them.
And what are other ways in which we can shape animal behavior, particularly with animals like livestock, animals that really don’t relate to us the way, say, a dog might? So, for example, a dog is very attuned to the social cues of people, but I’m not sure that cattle or pigs or other livestock animals are so attuned.
It’s really important to get cattle accustomed to the people walking through there through the herd. It’s a good, really good idea to get cattle accustomed to take your young heifers before they cave, walk them through the chutes, make sure their first experiences with a new person, a new place or a new thing like the cattle handling facility is a good first experience. Sometimes you’ve got to do something that’s that’s unpleasant. Let’s not make it be the first experience. It be a good idea for the young heifers before they start milking. They just walk through the milking parlor and then it’s not novel. You see the thing about something new? New things are scary. I just take out a balloon and shove it in animal face. That’s a really, really scary. But let’s say I tied a balloon to the fence while the cattle probably gonna come up and investigated. New things are attractive.
If the animal is allowed to just walk up and investigate on its own voluntarily the sterry when you suddenly just shove it in their face. So if I want to train an animal to tolerate something like flags and blues, like, for example, getting my horse son right for the horse show, I’d want to expose him to flags and balloons at home and let him just explore them on his own.
And I wanted to talk a little bit about the actual architectural design that you developed that really changed the way that cattle are led to the slaughterhouses. Can you describe a little bit about how you came up with the idea and how the design has been implemented in North America and elsewhere?
Well, basically, cattle want to go back to where they come from. So if you want to lay out around crowds and you want to lay it out in full half circle, so as the animal comes around the bend. He thinks he’s going back to where they come from. They have a natural behavior to go back to where they come from. And then another piece of equipment I design is a device called the Center Track Restrainer System. And you can go on YouTube. I’ve got videos up there. If you just type in Temple Grandin cattle into YouTube search box, you can see my center track restraint system. I designed for large meatpacking plants and half the cattle in this country are handled in that piece of equipment. And, you know, then you put solid sides up so you don’t see people walking by. The other thing you’ve got to do is get rid of all the distractions. You know, they don’t want to go into the dark. So I might put a light on a chute. They’re scared of a moving reflection on a wet floor. So I’ve changed the lighting. It’s amazing how they’re controlled by their vision. It’s also very important to give those animals a non-slip floor and that applies to all animals. You’re taking a dog into the veterinarian once you take a bathmat from home with a rubber backing. Put that on the table so the dog has a nice non-slip surface to stand on animals. So just the panic and they get upset when they start flipping.
And you also talk about the importance of the animal not seeing necessarily the end where they are going. And so what I’ve read about is that some of your shooters are in this circular matters that they’re going around and round. And then when they’re actually brought to the point in which they have to be there, they’re sacrificed. They don’t they don’t feel fear because they don’t know it’s going to happen or they just held them for veterinary work.
It’s the same principle. Well, if the animal is down in the pans and he can look up the chute and see the people standing around up there, he they don’t want to go towards visible people.
So so by having the curve shoot, they don’t see the visible people until they’re almost there. Or you want to put up a shield so they know that as they’re coming up on, you know, entering that shoot, they don’t see the people standing around up front.
Right. You’ve also developed an objective measurement for the humane treatment of animals that now has been adopted by corporations like McDonald’s and auditing system. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, that’s the American Meat Institute guidelines for animal handling at slaughter plants. And it’s very simple. It’s more like traffic rules. We measure five very simple things. How many animals did you actually make unconscious with the first shot from a captive bolt stunner? And when that’s done right, it kills the animal instantly. How many animals did stayed unconscious? That SB all of them. How many fell down? You’re only allowed one percent falling down anywhere in the facility. How many animals are mooing and bellowing? Right in the kill chute area, that has to be No. One three percent because of the animals of Bellarine right in the kill chute area. Something bad’s happening like Gates being slammed on them or electric prods. And then how many animals did you actually use the electric prod on? So that’s five things you score that are simple outcome measures, sort of like traffic. And they’ve got to get a passing score on all five of those things, like they’ve got to instantly make unconscious. Ninety five percent on the first shot for a minimum passing score, 99 percent or more for an excellent score. But everything has to be dead before it’s hung up on the rail or any bits and pieces are cut off of it. And when I first started on this, the plans were terrible. Back in the 80s and early 90s, the plants were just terrible. You know, only 30 percent of the plants were able to accomplish the 90 to 95 percent level when I first started because their equipment was broken. They simply didn’t take care of their equipment. They didn’t need to buy new equipment. They need to fix the stuff that they already had.
And it’s worked really well. And it’s very simple, it’s not fake. It’s not a fake guideline. It’s a sandal improperly. I don’t know what that means.
Now they’ve got to get you know, they want excellent prod score if elected process be down to five percent, Bill. And they have to get 75 percent through with no electric prods at all. And when we first started, every animal got, you know, the electric prods. Gore would have been four or five hundred percent. You know, every animal fought five times. There’s been a lot of improvements.
I was really impressed.
You took something as sort of ethereal or hard to pin down as, you know, proper handling or humane treatment of animals and cetera and develop this objective scoring measure system. You know, it’s very it’s a very scientific approach to something that seems very, you know, artistic in in a sense or emotional.
The other thing is, is their outcome measures. And let’s take vocalization, for example, mooing and bellowing in a kill chute area that could be caused by the stunt or not working. Right. You could have booing because you left the animal by itself. You poked it with electric prod. You slammed the gate on it. It freaked out sleeping on the floor. You see, that’s a really good outcome measure for detecting problems in the plant. And when we first started, they were really bad plants. Twenty, 25 percent, 35 percent vocalization score. You know that many of the cattle screaming our heads off. Now, the industry average when they’re doing things right around two percent. Now, you don’t count the animals out in the stockyards talking to each other. You just do the vocalizations for when you’re actually handling them up in the kill chute area.
And so do you feel how how widely used now is your auditing system?
Well, the most of the major restaurant chains use it. It’s being used in South America. A whole lot of Australians use it as being used in Asia. I saw it on the Brazilian Web page. And and one of the reasons why that appeals to people is because it is simple. The plant has to make certain numbers. It’s like traffic. You know, there’s five things that we measure now in traffic. When you really get right down to it, the police only have to measure three things for moving violations, speeding the red light, stop sign violations. That means second thing and then erratic driving. That’s going to cover all of the drunken driving kind of things or sleepy drivers and things like that. And that’s why 90 percent of the tickets they give out. And if you just got rid of all the other traffic rules, it probably will go pretty well covered because those are the critical control points.
How could you have good driving if somebody swerving all around the highway or that way all 10 way over the speed limit, or they are on running stoplights and stop signs, you know that that no stop signs mean stop.
Red light means up traffic rules work because a very clear.
And what I want to see, I found in one of the big problems on enforcing something like humane border. We had all kinds of problems with, you know, different inspectors, you know? Well, one person thought with proper handling somebody else thought was abuse. You’ve got to have stuff that’s clear. I mean, can you imagine what a mess it would be if the police had to enforce proper driving going an appropriate speed?
Well, no, it’s posted what speed it is and then there is kind of a guideline on. Now you go five miles over, you know, it’s a place that for some judgment, but you certainly can’t go 20 miles over. That’s for sure. What’s posted?
It’s clear it’s a clear guideline, but you’ve also talked about in your Web site in particular, about the importance of the wealth there being a manager in the in the plant that cares about the welfare of the animals. And that when people are exposed to hundreds and hundreds of killings, they become desensitized and care less about the welfare.
So what role do you now see as this, as the sort of personal care person caring about the welfare of the animals? Does that still play a big role now that you have this auditing system?
You have to have a manners of the cares both about welfare and also about food safety. The same principles with food safety and cleanliness. Management has to care. One of the things we learned on the original McDonald’s audit, there was 75 plants on the approved supplier list. There were three where the plant manager had to be removed. Nothing was going to change. And you’ve got to have a manners of the cares. And what I have found with the people handling animals, you have to make sure you don’t understaffed or overwork.
And then there’s some people that if I give them training, oh, they’ll just become good stock people and say good stock people. There’s a lot of other people I got to keep supervising. Again, it’s just like traffic. Well, if the police just stopped it on measuring speed and then you have some people just like in traffic that should not be driving, you know, there’s a bottom 10 percent that are just terrible.
Maybe on driving would be less. But I found the animal handling the bottom 10 percent of people enjoy hurting animals and it just shouldn’t be there, so.
Right. And how do you observe those people doing that? I mean, how do you know that they’re that they’re enjoying the herding debate?
Well, they don’t they don’t stop it. You see, the Cargill company and JBL Company have put in video cameras where auditors can watch and see what people are doing. And one of the things that was learned from these video cameras is when the back was turned and they bring the electric prods out and there were some people that had they removed.
They just a. Every time your back was turned, the electric prod was just being used. News use. Now sometimes you need an elected product not to recommend banning. But most of the big plants that are doing a really good job right now, they do not allow people to carry the electric prod around. And the only place they have one is at the entrance to the restrainer or the. Or the kill box. And if you have an animal that won’t go in, you pick it up and use it and you put it away. Don’t carry it around in your.
Right, so that the animals don’t start associating you with that prod and then start fearing you?
Well, you know, of course in a plant, they only get one chance to see you. But let’s take a plane like a ranch in a ranch of O’Hanley cattle. Right. You shouldn’t be using electric prod at all, but every once in a while, you get a cow that absolutely won’t go and we shoot for vaccinations. And I’ve seen people, you know, break tails and hit them and beat them up.
Well, she absolutely won’t go in. And they won buzz elected primate preferable to beating her up.
I wanted to actually talk a little bit about the squeeze chute in in some of my readings of you, of your life and of course in the film Temple Grandin, this squeeze chute was something that you noticed and then adapted for yourself. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?
Well, when I was in high school, I watched cattle go in a squeeze shoe, which is a device that used to hold wild cattle for their vaccinations. And you go in a stall that’s got to handle metal panels that squeeze the cattle on the sides and hold it. And I noticed when some of the cattle one and then it kind of relaxed. Now, at that time, I was having horrible, horrible panic attacks or just terrible anxiety all the time. Now, that’s now controlled anti-depressants. When I was in high school, I and I went and tried getting in the cattle swish. You know, I found the pressure helped calm me down. So then I Bullis, we shoot like device that I could get into. And I talk about it in detail in my book, thinking in pictures. And I found that they pressure helped to calm me down. And I and a lot of therapists to work with autistic kids have found that there’s a certain subgroup of autistic kids where deep pressure or a wide parts of the body helps to calm the nervous system down.
And you know that these therapists, such as occupational therapists, will do things like get the child under sofa cushions or under mats, you know, maybe have a weighted vest help column down because there are problems with the sensory system.
And so what you also talk about how at first being hugged by a person was overwhelming to you. But that the squeeze machine sort of simulated a hug. So what was it about the machine that, you know, allowed you to feel more relaxed as opposed to a hug from a person which was overwhelming?
I could control the machine, a basic principle with sensory problems and a lot of people of sensory processing problems. But they can’t stand loud noise or they can’t stand fluorescent lights. You know, they just these stimuli just overload the nervous system and they’re often better tolerated if the person initiate. Like, if he doesn’t like the sound of one, you know, the blender, let’s say, you know, or a hairdryer, it might be better tolerated.
If he turns it on, then gradually gets to tolerate, you know, more and more and more time with the blender turned on or the hairdryer turn on. I hate those hand dryers they have in the restrooms, you know, and you see it’s a startle effect. And when you initiate to say, yes, stimulus yourself, there’s less of a startle effect. Well, same thing with Hugi. And actually, you can get kids desensitized so that they’re going to like hugging.
And I’m I’m very bad about medical procedures. I had to do a glaucoma test where they put a contact lens in my eye and I almost threw up on doing that. And the way they finally got it, where I could do it was it put an eye patch on for half an hour that made some pressure. And then after I’d had the eye patch on half an hour, there was a slide, this contact right into my eye without any trouble at all.
So do you think that that’s a good way to treat children who have autism spectrum disorder to sort of start with giving them good control over whatever stimulus it is that they are fearful of and and slowly sensitizing them to?
Well, and then and then you could also reduce the volume.
OK, let’s say it’s something like a hairdryer or maybe a wrap it up in something to muffle the sound and then gradually, you know, they get to tolerate it. Louder, louder. Now I still find it. Romagnoli in graduate school had a really loud, shrill hairdryer. I can tolerate it just fine for about 20 minutes. And then after that, it just got the driving you crazy. You know it. I could tolerate everywhere, for I hated it. It was just such a loud you know, it sounded like a buzz saw here.
Well, I hate those accelerator hand dryers. And in public statements too, I can’t tell.
What do you think about for the cattle? Why did the cattle find the squeeze, the squeezing, relaxing?
Well, cattle is a herd animal. And when cattle get scared, they all kind of push together and herd. Maybe that has something to it. But pressured deep pressure tends to relax tical touches. Like if you go up the horse and barely tickle them, that’s a good way to get kicked. If you just surprising tickle touches tend to set off in a learning response. Deep pressure tends to be calming and it works the best if you only leave it on for 15 or 20 minutes. The mistake a lot of people make is leaving it on way too long and then it’s not relaxing anymore. If you’re going to use a weight best, you want to put it on for 20 minutes, then take it off for a while. And the other thing I want to tell you, it does not work on every autistic kid. It’s only going to work on some of them autisms, very, very, very variable. There’s also some people just diagnosed as sensory processing disorder. Some people with dyslexia, ADHD or other learning problems also have problems with sensory oversensitivity and sensory processing problems where they don’t hear hard consonant.
Sounds very well, like I said, Cat. Well, what did I say? Bat rat tat. I have to figure that out by context. Is somebody talking about their pet? I’m going to assume that the cat.
I want to move back a little bit to something else that you’ve written about, where you you talk about how animals are not things that they have feelings and therefore we are responsible to to prevent their suffering as much as possible. Can you elaborate a little bit about that eye on that idea?
Well, an animal is not a thing. I have papers on the Internet called animals or not things. And I kind of compared on what health, you know, what I could ethically do to a dog compared to what I could ethically do to, you know, some tools such as screwdriver’s novel, want to take a screwdriver and slowly destroy it. I can do that because it doesn’t feel pain. I would feel pain if I did, you know, did something where I slowly damaged it. You know, animals on, you know, feel pain. They feel fear or they have emotions. Some people go, oh, well, that’s not being scientific. I say animals have emotions, but actually got a paper on that. Did the journal Animal Science on. On a sensory and environmental enrichment for companion laboratory and research animals. And it’s up on my Web site on Grand Uncommon, the research section.
And I reviewed the research. I mean, the neuroscience research is very clear that animals feel fear. That’s been documented. Some of that research is 30 years old, but it’s been hidden over in the neuroscience literature. How about how about the separation difference? You know, you take the young animal away from the mother, you get separation distress, and then you can also get a rage or anger. And then there’s also another emotional system of seeking. You know, what makes a dog want to keep running after the ball all the time? That’s the seating system.
And in my book, Animals Make a Human, Not Katherine Johnson and I discuss Jack Panth gaps, research on the basic core emotional systems in animals, and they have them. But the problem also that research is over the neuroscience literature.
So one of the reasons I wanted to bring this up is because you talk about how there are some animals and that in animals are not things paper on on the Internet, which I read about how there’s some animals like oysters, for example, that might not have a nervous system that is, you know, big, big enough to feel pain and that we might consider the treatment of those animals different from animals that have a more complex nervous system.
Well, an oyster dissident and much of it. Yeah. You’ve got to have some certain elements in the nervous system, Bill, to do these things. Oysters, jellyfish are just not at that level. Now, you get into fish. That’s kind of a gray area. Invertebrates octopus probably has enough nervous system complexity, but other invertebrates feel like worms, you know, would not like that. You have to have a certain level of nervous system complexity to really have one have emotions. Now, the first emotion that comes in anything is a fear that makes it avoid a danger on. But as a there’s research that shows that insects, for example, don’t have pain receptors. But now I’m not saying that we ought to be, you know, torturing flies, because I think that teaches people really bad things. But the animals have a nervous system capable of feeling pain and feeling emotions. Yeah. They are not things like screwdrivers or clocks.
So what if you had a computer that is made up of things that could somehow seem as though it’s feeling pain? Would you feel the same kind of ethical reluctance in turn it with respect to making that computer feel pain or suffering?
Or do you think that there’s something completely different between a biological organism and a technological thing?
If we artificially created a nervous system that does everything a biological organism can do, maybe it would feel pain.
Yeah, I mean, that’s I think that’s something that people are working on and it’s going to be an important question and the ethics of neuroscience moving forward. And so I wanted to hear your opinion about how do we what what are what are our ethical responsibilities if and when that does happen?
Well, if you make a bio, let’s say you artificially created a biological brain or equivalent to a dog, let’s say you and it had all the same systems and it probably would suffer.
Yeah, I it’s, you know, especially if it’s made out of biological materials and.
But what if it isn’t? What if it’s made out of entirely artificial materials?
Well, that’s a hard that’s a hard question because, you know, Descartes originally, you know, was dissecting dogs of our member. Right.
And he you know, he said, well, a dog doesn’t suffer when you cut it open. You know, I used to do surgery on human babies with paralytic agents with no anesthesia. I thought, well, the baby doesn’t feel it when the baby does feel that.
He just doesn’t consciously remember it, but suppresses the heck out of it, out of the nervous system.
Do you think that by us putting together an artificial brain, we might have a better understanding of people who have disorders such as autism in the future?
Well, you can see on autism in certain circuits are left out. But, you know, certain social circuits. But, you know, I’ve often thought, is there such a thing as a totally normal brain?
I’ve often thought that maybe the person with a totally normal brain to be really boring and in thinking in pictures.
Yeah, I completely agree with you. And you know what? First of all, in order to produce a normal brain, you have to define what it is to have a normal brain. And I think that that’s probably impossible.
Well, I think there’s a wide range of brains, because I think about the kind of on savant type of skills that a lot of people with autism have. We’ll think about what wonderful scribe’s they would have made back in ancient Egypt.
Mm hmm. They would have been super good at that. Absolutely.
Know, let’s sort of think about other cultures, I remember reading something in a famous neuroscientist’s road and he said, well, if you lived in ancient Vienna and you had this music. In other words, sort of being dyslexic where you couldn’t read this music is where you just can’t do music. Well, in ancient Vienna, back you know, back when all the classical artists were writing their stuff, that would’ve been a great handicap that have this museum where in today’s society had some.
It’s not a handicap.
Right. Because we don’t use it in our daily lives, we don’t use it in our daily lives.
Where we live nation. Viana you did.
So what do you where do you see your research and animal behavior now moving in the future? What what what’s the problem that you’re currently working on that you’re most excited about?
Be my student, Courtney Forker from my. She’s visiting from Germany. She did very interesting study on us on individual differences and how Mama Cale’s defend their class.
And some mama cows called the calf over all the mama. Cows don’t seem to care about the calf. There’s a lot of individual differences in animals.
I’m right now we’re re writing and revamping our book on behavior, genetics, a lot of farm animals.
And looking at one new literature on things, looking at things like differences and novelty seeking differences and fearfulness, different differences and separation stress, you can get individual differences and in how fearful an animal is or how much of a novelty seeker the animal is or how upset it gets when it’s separated from its body. You know, these are four different emotional systems in the brain and you can actually breed animals, be high and low fear, high and low separation distress, high and low seekers’ and wanting to explore. You know, let’s go back to the Curiosity Mars rover. Why do we send something like that to Maurice? Because we’re curious. I think curiosity is a really good name for it.
Absolutely. And what about in terms of meat production and sort of the livestock problems?
What do you see as one of the major problems that still needs to be solved in that industry?
I’m concerned about pushing an animal’s biology too hard. You know, like we push a dairy cow to produce more and more and more milk. And now she’s having problems reproducing on know that’s kind of getting shut down. Or we could literally genetically select a chicken to grow really fast and then have leg problems. And the poultry industry is actually helped correct some of those problems. But I’m concerned about pushing the biology just too hard. You know, you can take on substances like beta agonists, which are drugs that make animals grow more fast.
He is a little bit of a problem, OK, but you use too much of it. Then you start to get problems like lameness and heat stress. You know, you can overload biology just with genetics and breeding.
Let’s look at the bulldog. It’s a deformed monstrosity. It can’t breathe. It can’t walk. And it can’t have its babies naturally. All right.
On just a plain old genetics, there was no biotech there. That was just old fashioned breeding. Or you can overload the biology, you know, with drugs and hormones and things like that.
So how can our listeners help in terms of avoiding certain meat products or meat that comes from certain farms? What should be we be looking out for when we are consuming meat, when it comes to slaughtering?
You take big companies like Cargill and they’re really doing really, really doing a good job. And I think the important thing is people just need to know where the food’s coming from. And I don’t think egg industry has done a good job of communicating with the public. Let’s look at the pink slime issue. You familiar with that?
Yes. But why don’t you describe it for some of our listeners who haven’t heard about it?
Well, when you cut up meat, you have Cumming’s leftover.
And because obviously hamburger is not made totally out of steak and roasts, so you cut off the meat. You get a lot of trimmings that are left over. They have a lot of meat. And you put those in what’s called combo boxes as a fork with pellet sized boxes, plants. So that’s McDonald’s. But then you have other trimmings which are are, you know, bits of fat. And these bits of fat have little bits of meat on them. And it’s too much labor to cut that little bit of meat off. So, you know, you should just get thrown away. Well, 20 years ago and process was developed where you took those fat pieces and these does not force sweepings. This is all product that’s been on sanitized food grade conveyor veirs and cutting equipment. And you put it in a centrifuge. You saw like a big washing machine. He did slightly spin off the fat, like spinning off the water on there on a spin cycle and then a little tiny meat that are left behind. And it is kind of slimy and gooey. And that’s what got called pink slime. And that’s been added to hamburger for 20 years. Well, then all of a sudden, people found out about it and they were real upset about it because it’s not what most people would consider ground beef. What if, on the other hand, we stop using this product, we’re throwing away a lot of cattle. Let’s say you got a great big, huge plant and they slaughter 5000 cattle a day. And if we don’t use this beef protein of beef protein product instead of pink slime, let’s say we stop using that product. That me is equivalent. This great big plant that we just take one entire truckload of their cattle. We just take them to the dump, shoot them and throw them in the dump.
In other words, if you take a truckload a day from every big plant, we don’t just throw them in the garbage. You know, it’s only about 42 head of nice fat steers and we’re gonna just throw them away. That’s really unethical. That’s food waste.
And the industry did not respond to this, right? First of all, it should have been labeled 20 years ago. You could get away with that kind of nonsense. And this product has been around for 20 years. And I think it’s slowly going to come back. But the mistake that was made is that the plants where the products were made, they didn’t have videos up on the Internet right away. So they were too worried about the patents and their secrets. Well, what go to their secrets of their Quabbin ended up going to the scrap yard. You see, part of the problem people in the industry, is it too much just inside their own tribe? This happens with a lot of things. You know, there’s been a lot of controversy right now about small gestation stalls and Smithfield. They there are great big, huge pig company. They’ve decided to get rid of gestation falls where Sal lives in the box where it can’t turn around. Well, why did Smithfield do it when a farmer in Iowa didn’t do it? And I think part of the reason is Smithfield corporate office is right up in close contact with the city people. The Iowa farmer, he never talked any of those people. He’s too far inside the box to know what’s going on outside the box where Smithfield’s living outside the box. I think that had something to do with why they did it for me.
Well, I just wanted to ask you one more question, and that is you, Claire Danes has played you in an HBO movie that was was critically acclaimed and won many awards. What was it like for you to watch that film?
Well, watching her was like going into the weird 60s and 70s time machine. She did an absolute fan. That tactic job of becoming me in the 60s and 70s. I mean, just super great. No, I think I liked them. But the movie, it showed my visual thinking really accurately. They also showed all my projects, all the things I don’t like. The gate you can open up my car squeeze machine, my cattle handling stuff. They they showed that all accurately. And by the way, you can buy the movie on Amazon.com. Just use keyword Temple Grandin.
OK, great. So you do recommend that people watch it because you feel that it’s an accurate portrayal of your experiences.
Well, and it’s also shows autism very actively. And I’ve had a lot of kids right into me and they’re saying, you know, your movie has motivated me that I can succeed. This kid might say, well, I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s, which is mild autism, or I’ve been non I’m dyslexic or I’ve got learning problems or this. And the movie’s motivated. I mean, it’s a great movie to show the kids that are getting bullied in school and just feeling like giving up.
Well, you’re a great inspiration to all of us, so thank you very much for being on point of inquiry.
Well, thank you so much for having me.
Hey, Barry. Yes, Rebecca Barry has some concerns about Psychon. You know, it’s coming up soon. October 25th to twenty. And as you recall, I was there last year. Yes. And I had a great time. But I heard a rumor that this year there will not be a fancy apple bar.
Well, right now, Rebecca, I do not have an Apple bar planned. I will be honest with you. Barry, why? Why should I go?
You should go, Rebecca, because some of the biggest names of skepticism are gonna be there. Like. Like you like what? Start off Richard Weissman. He’s our M.C. for the event. People like Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, Lawrence Krauss, Indre Viskontas, David Gorsky, Jon Ronson, who I think you know, Elizabeth Loftus Kilt Hangar’s Eugenie Scott, Joe Nicole, Ben Radford’s Steve Novello.
I mean, they keep flooding my mind. How many these great people they coming. Skeptic’s are going to be the skeptics guide to the universe doing a live broadcast. What else do you need?
Well, Barry, your enthusiasm is infectious. However, what else have you got? Come on.
What else have what else? Well, like. Like last year we’re doing a costume party. OK. I did have a lot of fun with that last year. Yes. We’re also doing a blood drive. Vampire blood drive, I think fits with the feelings of Halloween.
Yes. We also have the local astronomy club in Nashville, the coming setting up through telescopes who are doing the thing called Starry Starry Night. Is it is it good?
No, no, no. Not not not enough. No, that was a really great amplifier.
Well, how about this? We’re doing a honky tonk bus trip to the bars downtown.
Oh, what bus trip? Honky tonk. Never say that again. Honky never. Don’t say it again. Look, the Apple Bar was like a crucial part of my diet last year.
Rebecca, you know, we’re having an authentic Tennessee Nashville barbecue event, open barbecue, plenty of pork and beef and chicken and berry. I’m a vegetarian. Vegetarian. Well, do you know Rebecca? We’re also having a moonshine tasting event. I’ll be there.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about today’s show on Livestock Animal Science Visit, Point of inquiry dot org. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry, dot org on Twitter, at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. Views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations.
Point of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaac in Amherst, New York. And our music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Indre Viskontas.