I recently finished Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. 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 livestock, and the system in general. Read specific cow thoughts here, pig thoughts here, and poultry thoughts here. Grandin’s research and studies show that simple changes to industrial animal farming can go a long way in improving the welfare of food animals. We, as consumers, need to push the industry, via dollars and votes, to make these simple changes.
- The most important thing an effective manager needs to do to stay on top of his own behavior is to guard against desensitization to the animals’ fear and pain… A manager in a distant corporate office is too far removed to care about the animals, but a person working in the trenches can get desensitized, or habituated, to suffering… The first thing an effective manager must do to take care of the animals is get rid of employees who are bullies. (p. 191)
- Transparency has a power psychological effect because people and animals behave differently when they know someone is watching. (p. 229)
- From the very beginning of my career I saw that cattle could be raised right and given a good life and a painless death. (p. 296)
- …Our relationship with the animals we use for food must be symbiotic. Symbiosis is a mutually beneficial relationship between two different living things. (p. 297)
- People forget that nature can be very harsh, and death in the wild is often more painful and stressful than death in a modern plant. (p. 297)
- I am very concerned that programs around the world to convert grain into fuel will increase the intensification of animal agriculture… There is a lot of land where raising crops will increase soil erosion and damage the environment. Grazing animals is the best use for this land, and they help keep the land healthy. (p. 298)
- Since people are responsible for breeding and raising farm animals, they must also take the responsibility to give the animals living conditions that provide a decent life and a painless death. (p. 300)
- I think the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life. A good life requires three things: health, freedom from pain and negative emotions, and lots of activities to turn on SEEKING and PLAY. (p. 301)
- When I read all the scientific evidence about electrical stimulation of subcortical brain systems, the only logical conclusion was that the basic emotion systems are similar in humans and all other mammals. (p. 301)
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I recently finished Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. 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 chickens and other poultry. Read cow thoughts here, and pig thoughts here.
Chickens and Other Poultry
- The industry has created chickens that have chronic pain in order to get birds that grow at the far outer limits of what is biologically possible… The other problem is that modern broiler chickens have been bred to have stupendous appetites so they’ll grow super-fast and reach market weight as soon as possible… These chickens have to be kept on a strict diet just to maintain normal weight… These birds have low welfare no matter what you do. If you let them eat all they want, they have bad welfare and if you don’t let them eat all they want, they also have bad welfare… The industry is going to have to breed parent stock with smaller appetites. There’s no other way to fix the problem. (p. 219)
- Today, only a handful of companies provide all of the commercial layers and broilers around the world, which has greatly narrowed the gene pool. This has created a risky situation because genetically similar animals are vulnerable to the same diseases. (p. 222)
- How to improve chicken welfare: The first thing you have to do is raise consciousness. (p. 222)
- Wendy’s is the one chain that has a shot at changing the US chicken industry because they buy chicken from over twenty-seven slaughter plant complexes instead of only four or five because they use standard cuts of chicken. Wendy’s can throw a plant off the approved supplier list and still have enough chicken to supply their restaurants. They’re doing an excellent job auditing the handling at their suppliers. (p. 226)
- Unfortunately, even when you combine Wendy’s twenty-seven plants with the plants supplying Burger King and McDonald’s, which also audit their suppliers for welfare, you’re still auditing only 30 percent of the poultry complexes compared to 90 percent of the beef industry. That’s not enough. The other 70 percent of the plants sell to supermarkets that either do not audit or have auditing programs that are less strict. (p. 227)
- The question is: Do chickens need to do natural, hard-wired behaviors in order to have good welfare? Or can they live happily without some of these behaviors? (p. 231)
- Chickens may not have as strong a need for novelty as other animals. If that’s true, it’s all the more reason for the industry to give chickens simple enrichments like string devices. A little goes a long way with a chicken. Laying hens have the poorest welfare of all the farm animals. If we can make their lives better by giving them simple pleasures inside their cages and pens, we have to do it.
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I recently finished Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. 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 pigs. Read cow thoughts here.
- The winters in the Midwest are brutal, and pigs born in the winter could be lost in snowdrifts in the old system, so the mama pigs had to be kept inside. This led to the invention of gestation stalls where a sow is kept confined during her entire pregnancy. The sow can lie down and stand up, but she cannot turn around… Basically, every time the pig industry comes up with a solution to a problem, the solution costs so much to implement that the industry has to intensify production — raise more pigs on the same amount of land — to stay profitable… Most of these improvements have lowered the emotional welfare of the pigs. (p. 176)
- Unfortunately, the industry continues to prefer hard technological solutions to soft behavioral or management solutions. Keeping sows locked up alone saves on labor and training because it takes fewer employees and a lower level of skill to manage sows in sow stalls than it does to care for sows living in pens. (p. 179)
- The worst thing you can do to a pig is to repeatedly mix and remix small groups of strange animals together. (p. 179)
- So far, no one has found anything that can compete with straw for a pig’s interest and attention… The solution for limited supplies of straw is to use straw exclusively for enrichment, not for bedding. (p. 186)
- You have to handle pigs gently because they’re more excitable than cows… The lactic acid levels in their muscles skyrocket from all the exertion, and that wrecks the meat quality. (p. 193)
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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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