Different, but not less: Temple Grandin, you’re my hero!

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Temple Grandin and Claire Danes (in costume as Temple Grandin) on the set of HBO's "Temple Grandin" biopic.

The HBO movie Temple Grandin is a must see! I’m sitting here watching it for a third time and am sure I’ll catch it a couple of more times while it airs on HBO throughout the month of March. Dr. Temple Grandin is a real life person, and what a life she has had!

As I watched the movie, I kept reflecting back on our own cows and how each one has its own unique personality. I have spent hours just watching our longhorns, it is relaxing to me, almost like meditating. I wonder to myself what they are thinking, and as I sit with them longer I'm able to understand more about their behavior and the pecking order they have created amongst them. It's really amazing to watch how they communicate with one another.



Jack feeding the cows; eating "cake" as we call it....

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is known as the most accomplished and well known adult with autism in the world. She is a prominent author and speaker on the subject of autism, but her autism is not what defines her. She is a recognized leader in her field of animal science. She has written over 100 papers on technical and scientific livestock handling AND is a top designer of livestock-handling equipment to help reduce the stress of livestock during handling. I spent my morning watching her lectures via You Tube and learned so much about her mission in life for the well-being of livestock. The movie about her life actually resonated more strongly with me the second time I watched. There is a line in the movie which more or less sums up what it is she has aimed to create. Her character, played by Claire Danes, says regarding cattle:

“Of course they’re going to get slaughtered. Do you think we would have cattle if people didn’t eat them everyday? They would just be funny looking animals in zoos . We raise them for us, that means we owe them some respect. Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be. I wouldn’t want to have my guts ripped out by a lion, I would much rather die in a slaughter house if it was done right. We can easily design a way where they don’t feel pain and they don’t get scared.”

I get that.


The first longhorn bull calf born at Hummingbird Farms. What a beauty!

When you live on a farm or ranch you understand the cruelty of nature: the coyote that ate the baby fawn; the raccoon that ate the chicken; the opossum that ate the robin’s eggs… I’ve also seen the epitome of cruelty in nature, which was in 2001 when Jack and I spent a month in the bush in Africa. Nothing will ever ring more true about nature until you have witnessed the cruelty that exists in the wild.



Our standard poodles, only 4 months old, meet the longhorns for the first time....

It was assuring for me to learn more about Dr. Temple Grandin and what she has accomplished. The fact that she is autistic is only secondary to all her other contributions to science and the humane treatment of cattle.


Just a day old; this longhorn was named Gran, after our sweet neighbor....

Temple Grandin has been quoted as saying, “most people don’t get that a slaughter house is much gentler than nature. Unfortunately, most people never observe the natural cycle of birth and death. They do not realize for one living thing to live, another living thing must die.”


Cows are curious, and they like to play.....

As an animal lover, I have battled with the idea of beef my entire life… Eat? Don’t eat? Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Is it humane?


One thing that Dr. Temple Grandin has helped me understand loud and clear is that it is inevitable that cattle will be slaughtered and the sole reason they were bred and are here in the first place is for us to eat.


Except for MY cattle… My longhorns are my pets and are here for pure joy. Even when my herd gets too big and we have to sell, they are only sold to suckers just like me…. Someone who will hand-feed them and love them and let them simply be the fun-loving wonderful creatures that they are. Our longhorns are raised for what we call “ornamental” purposes. Believe it or not, there are people that have longhorn cattle for their majestic appearance as they roam the range. I guess you could say that we raise beauty queens…. And every fine ranch needs its own beauty queen, or ten.


The movie Temple Grandin is so well done and I’m glad I stumbled across it. If anyone believes that an autistic child can't prosper, they need to see this movie! If you don’t have HBO you can come over to my house and watch it with me for a fourth time because I recorded it. Long live the DVR!


And long live the humanity of all the fine creatures that feed this great earth!

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