Animals Make Us Human:
Creating the Best Life for Animals
By Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson
Temple Grandin is well known as someone who “sticks her neck out,” to support the humanitarian treatment of animals.
She is an autistic who has worked very hard changing the views of animal raising industries, so that animals, waiting to be our food, do not live a horrible life or suffer a horrible death.
The title Animals Make Us Human, is really a call to be human in our care and raising, particularly in intensive animal production. There are some people who would run a mile rather than read this book and discover what our food animals go through to get to our plates.
The question is asked on Page 1, “what does an animal need to have a good life?” If a chicken goes from chick to the market in a matter of weeks, is the industry going to care what sort of life that short life is? If pigs are fed and bred to get enormously heavy, so that their feet cannot support them — well they are scheduled for the killing floor, aren’t they?
The basics are: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress.
Lest you think this book is only about the food industry, the authors also talk about pets in pet stores, cats and dogs kept by families and animals in zoos. They think we should know more about them so that we can understand and fulfill their needs. It’s an informative and even amusing read.
The amusing part comes in the cat section. Sometimes, cats decide to live with the neighbours or someone down the road. “They aren’t rejecting you,” she says, “with cats, it’s a matter of what’s the best on offer.”
What of the hamster who is put in a cage full of tunnels. He doesn’t spend a harried life digging, but relaxes and hangs out.
There are blue ribbon emotion systems that, if met, make for a mentally well animal, even one that has a short life.
The first is seeking, a basic need to search and make sense of their environment. Rage is caused by being captured and held immobile. Panic stems from separation from parent or social group. Lust plainly is sexual desire. Care is maternal love and care-taking and play is a basic need shown in all mammals. It’s plain that Dr. Grandin is suggesting that we are all animals and these things are basic to all of us.
The lives and handling of horses, cattle and pigs are all examined here. Both legislation (to insure fair handling of these animals) and inventive equipment to make their lives easier is described and encouraged.
The unspoken issue is: what kind of food are we eating when animal breeding and feeding have only one end and that is mass production?
Animals make our lives better; let’s return the favour.
Peggy Freeman is a local freelance writer.