About nine months ago I started reading Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. I finally finished it (I have a bad habit of reading several books at once and getting sidetracked) and would like to share some of her points here. She discusses what different types of animals need to be happy, and how to improve the living conditions of pets, livestock, zoo animals, and wildlife. Below are some of her thoughts on cows.
- The single most important factor determining whether a new thing is more interesting than scary if whether the animal has control over whether to approach the object… So you want to have no novel stimuli inside a meatpacking plant. (p. 147)
- There have been so many studies showing that good stockmanship improves milk production, weight gain, and reproduction. (p. 156)
- Sudden weaning is completely unnecessary, and people need to be encouraged to switch over to low-stress weaning. Abruptly weaned calves have reduced weight gain for a week and higher stress levels. (p. 159)
- …the Holstein calf is not fully mobile for two days. Breeders have overselected so much for milk production that they’ve created a weak, fragile animal that’s so frail it’s starting to be hard to breed them. Holstein cows can carry a pregnancy to term but it’s hard to get a pregnancy started. (p. 164)
- Another obstacle is that to be a good stockperson you have to recognize that an animal is a conscious being that has feelings, and some people don’t want to think of animals that way. This is true of researchers and veterinarians as well as stockpeople. (p. 166)
- The good news is that conditions in the plants are much better today than they were in the early ’90s. The animal welfare audits required by McDonald’s, Whole Foods, and other companies have forced plant management to monitor, measure, and improve employee behavior. Plants are maintaining their equipment better and reassigning or firing employees who abuse animals. Some plants have installed video systems on the plant floor, which solves the problem of people behaving properly when they are being watched and reverting to old rough ways when nobody is around. (p. 172)
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