Blunt Dissection · Ep 38: Dr Temple Grandin
My guest today is a genuine global superstar in the world of animal health, Dr Temple Grandin. The word ‘legend’ is often overused, but when you’re talking about one of the most respected animal behaviourists in the world – and the most famous person with autism – the word feels pretty accurate.
Labelled unfairly as mentally ‘retarded’ because she didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, Dr Grandin rose to become a prominent author, speaker and consultant on autism, animal behaviour and livestock handling equipment. She is also a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.
But her journey to the top was not easy as she was teased and bullied in high school and workplace for being the “weird, nerd girl”. It was thanks to her science teacher Mr Carlock, who recognised her potential, that she became a scientist and went on to design the revolutionary livestock facilities that are now used by half the cattle production units in the United States.
Dr Grandin’s unique talent is her ability to think and see like an animal, because she sees in pictures, rather than words.
The late Oliver Sacks, physician, best-selling author, and professor of neurology, described her first book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, as “unprecedented, because there had never before been an inside narrative of autism”.
Dr Grandin went on to write in excess of 15 other books, has a TED talk with over five million views and is the subject of an Emmy-winning movie made about her life.
Now, just before we jump into the episode, I just wanted to drop a quick word from today’s show sponsor which is the VetX:Thrive community.
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Now, back to the show.
It was both an honour to sit with Dr Grandin, and find out more about the way her incredible brain works. What seems so obvious to her has revolutionised the way we handle livestock. It’s arguable that her insight has improved the lives of more animals than just about anyone else on the planet.
Though this is a shorter episode than others, it is packed with insight that I know you will enjoy and find valuable. So, sit back and enjoy this, my conversation with the esteemed Dr Temple Grandin.
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Listen on Spotify here.
Be safe, be well, be happy.
Outline of this episode:
- 1.30 Temple explains what it means to be a visual thinker and how it helped her understand cattle
- 7.20 Talking about the challenges she has faced in her early career as women in veterinary medicine
- 8.20 Temple talks about her projects, including the McLibel case, and how simple changes helped improve animal welfare
- 12.31 Understanding fear in animals and being aware of their emotions
- 14.30 What vets can do to improve the way we work with production animals
- 15.45 Temple talks about her work with the next generation of vets
- 19.03 Temple explains what is lacking in veterinary knowledge – the basic stuff we need to know eg flight zone and point of balance, and species difference
- 20.44 The dynamics of world food production and sustainability
- 26.10 Temple talks about biological system overload and bad becoming normal in veterinary medicine
- 30.50 The people who have had a positive impact on Temple’s life and career
- 32.52 Importance of hard work
- 34.40 Dealing with foremen in the farming industry and the abuse she suffered as a “weird girl nerd”
- 36.00 The importance of internships for college students
Books By Temple Grandin
Animals Make Us human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
Animals in translation: The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow
Improving Animal Welfare – A Practical Approach
Livestock Handling and Transport
Are We Pushing Animals To Their Biological Limits?
Temple Grandin’s Guide To Working With Farm Animals
Department of Animal Science Colorado State University
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