Who is Temple Grandin?

She is a well-renounced person in the animal world who, despite being autistic, used her great observation skills to show empathy towards the well-being of animals that were intended for livestock production
Who is Temple Grandin?
Eugenio Fernández Suárez

Written and verified by the vet Eugenio Fernández Suárez.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Many people have ever heard of Temple Grandin. However, her impact on the welfare of animals around the globe has been immense. 

Grandin is a famous ethologist, zoologist, and teacher who has written dozens of books and has given hundreds of speeches mainly focused on animal behavior and well-being.

Interestingly, she says her autism has helped her understand animals, and act as a link between human thought and animals

The complicated childhood of Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin was born in 1947 and had strong autism throughout her childhood, which was difficult for both her and her family. She rejected human contact, but this changed during her teenage years when she visited a family farm, she came up with a brilliant idea.

When Temple was young, she thought up a machine that put pressure on the cows in order to comfort them. Likewise, she created another machine that did the same with autistic children, which is a mechanical hug device that provides the contact necessary for them to function without having human contact.

A woman with a horse

Another thing that helped her live with her autism was having relationships with animals. Horseback riding and spending time with cows made her much more empathetic and it was, probably an even more powerful therapy than her own invention.

Temple Grandin and animal welfare

She then decided to start studying psychology and to specialize in animal behavior. She dedicated her career to both studying the world of autism and to improving the welfare of animals.

Her main interest was improving the welfare of farm animals, and she published serval works on environmental enrichment, which is about the right way of handling animals as they are transported and their stress.

Thanks to her, a multitude of farms and slaughterhouses in the United States were redesigned. Her work internationally improved to the quality of life of these species.

Temple Grandin showcases that an autistic mind thinks about images and focuses on detail. Therefore, some of the most brilliant scientists and artists in history had a spectrum of autism.

Cows feeding on hay

Autism and animals

A clear example for Grandin was that many people didn’t understand why a group of cows wouldn’t approach the vet. For example, there was a flag waving by the entrance and this made the cows feel insecure.

These same ideas apply to the design of facilities in several phases of animal production. For example, she eliminated hanging objects, changed shapes and layouts, and mentally visualized another way of understanding human-animal relationships.

According to Grandin, nature has a powerful examples that relate autism and animals. For example, many animals behave similar to autistic people when dealing with loud sounds. Temple’s own reactions to alarms or storms reminded her of the reactions of the animals she lived with.

These ideas have many applications. So, the memories that cause fear cannot be erased,  and the trauma that autistic people and species like horses experience share similar causes and solutions. 

This woman assures that “all minds are necessary”. The minds of autistic children and even those of other species can give many solutions in our daily lives.


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