Temple Grandin: Advocate for Autism and Animal Rights

“We raise them for us; that means we owe them some respect.  Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.”

Temple Grandin defies stereotypes of an autistic individual.  Unable to speak before she was four years old, her voice is now known around the world for her advocacy for autistic people and the humane treatment of cattle.  She is a professor, teaching animal science at Colorado State University, and a respected livestock industry consultant.

A Machine for Autism

Grandin was expelled in high school, after being cruelly teased by classmates.  She did not let this deter her, but succeeded in getting an education.  She obtained her undergraduate degree in psychology and her masters and doctoral degrees in animal science.  In college, she invented the hug machine, also known as a squeeze box.  Modeled after squeeze tubes used for delivering vaccinations to cattle, Grandin felt the device that calmed the cows would also help her anxiety.  This deep-pressure device calms people with autism, as the user controls the amount of pressure stimulation they receive.  Proven effective by multiple studies, this invention is used across the nation in many therapy programs.

Improving the Treatment of Livestock

Grandin has made impressive improvements for the ethical treatment of cattle.  In 1997, she was hired by McDonald’s, after the company was accused of animal torture.  She spent the next three years helping with animal reform, teaching auditors what to look for at slaughterhouses.  Cattle received lighting, flooring was improved, animal stress levels were monitored, and killing techniques were changed.  She has altered the final days of so many animals with two inventions utilized in most slaughterhouses: curved loading chutes and the center-tack restrainer system.  The loading chutes allow cattle to remain calm, as their view is limited.  Before Grandin’s invention, animals would panic and injure themselves when they knew their fate.  The center-track restrainer keeps cattle steady as they are stunned, allowing as humane of a slaughter as possible.

Recognition and Awards

Grandin’s life has been immortalized with a film, entitled Temple Grandin.  This movie, starring Claire Danes as the leading role, won seven Emmy Awards.  Grandin was also the subject of one documentary and featured in another.  She has authored multiple books, both on autism and cattle, which have garnered praise.  In 2010, Temple was named by Time as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.  Furthermore, she has received honorary degrees from numerous universities and was awarded the Double Helix Medal.

Temple Grandin is a source of inspiration for so many.  Animal activists, farmers, autistic individuals and their families are motivated by her passion and work.  Countless heads of cattle are given respect in their final days because of her dedication.  Grandin’s impact has been felt across the country.

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