Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, also lives with autism and is an activist in the autism community who has written several best-selling books. She is a designer of livestock-handling equipment, and she has designed the facilities in which half the cattle in the U.S. are handled.
In her speech, Grandin touched on many topics, including autism, how to help special-needs children recognize their interests and sharpen their skills in the real world, animal behavior and animal welfare, and alternative approaches to problem solving.
Grandin told the audience at the Fellowship Breakfast that she sees the world in pictures, different than the way most people look at the world. She stressed that it is essential to have people who look at things differently working together to solve problems.
“Understanding how people think differently can really help us work together,” Grandin said. She said that putting different minds together can bring conflict, but ultimately will help come to better resolutions.
Animal auditing system made the ‘most positive’ change
When asked what she was most proud of in her career, she said that, contrary to what many might expect, it’s not her equipment designs, but her meat-packing plant auditing system.
“When I first started out, I thought I could fix everything with equipment, but I learned that’s not always the case,” Grandin said. “We have to have certain outcomes.”
She said the problem she ran into with her equipment often was the people using it. She said the management needed to be trained and the right people involved in the process.
“There are some people who shouldn’t be working with animals,” she said. But, “there’s about 20 percent of people that, when you train them, they’re fabulous stock people.”
Her auditing system is “the thing that made the most positive, good change,” she said.
Poultry, livestock industries need to be more transparent
Grandin also stressed the importance of the animal agriculture industry to be open with the public about what it does. She said “ag-gag” laws hinder the industry and companies should strive to be more transparent about what they do.
“If you get trashed, open the door,” she said. “You have to look at everything you do. How is it going to play on the Internet?”