Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

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by Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson

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How can we give animals the best life-- for them? What does an animal need to be happy? In her groundbreaking, best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her experience as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel. Now she builds on those…  See more details below


How can we give animals the best life-- for them? What does an animal need to be happy? In her groundbreaking, best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her experience as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel. Now she builds on those insights to show us how to give our animals the best and happiest life-- on their terms, not ours. Knowing what causes animals physical pain is usually easy, but pinpointing emotional distress is much harder. Drawing on the latest research and her own work, Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals and then explains how to fulfill the specific needs of dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, zoo animals, and even wildlife. Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures.
Animals Make Us Human is the culmination of almost thirty years of research, experimentation, and experience. This is essential reading for anyone who’s ever owned, cared for, or simply cared about an animal.

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A specially gifted "animal translator" shares fascinating insights and observations on how we can treat other creatures in ways that are more truly humane.

The culmination of more than 30 years of work with other species, Temple Grandin's Animals Make Us Human delivers on the assertions of both its title and subtitle. Drawing on keen, hard-won observations, the author of the bestselling Animals in Translation and Thinking in Pictures draws on her experiences as an autistic woman to describe core emotion systems shared by humans and other creatures: a need to seek; a sense of rage, fear, and panic; feelings of lust; an urge to nurture; and an ability to play. Her detailed examples encompass much of the animal kingdom, including dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, poultry, wild creatures, and captives of zoos. An engaging nature book that spells out how we can make animals happy.

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WHAT DOES AN ANIMAL NEED to have a good life?     I don’t mean a good life physically. We know a lot about what kind of food, water, exercise, and veterinary care animals need to grow well and be healthy.     I mean a good mental life.     What does an animal need to be happy? The animal welfare movement has been thinking about animals’ mental welfare at least since the 1960s. That’s when the British government commissioned the Brambell Report on intensive animal production. Intensive animal production means very big farms raising large numbers of animals for slaughter or egg production in very small spaces compared to traditional farms. The Brambell committee listed the five freedoms animals should have. The first three freedoms are about physical welfare, and the last two are about mental welfare:

     • freedom from hunger and thirst     • freedom from discomfort     • freedom from pain, injury, or disease     • freedom to express normal behavior     • freedom from fear and distress

1 What Do Animals Need?

Freedom is a confusing guide for people trying to give animals a good life. Even freedom from fear, which sounds straightforward, isn’t simple or obvious. For example, zookeepers and farmers usually assume that as long as a prey species animal doesn’t have any predators around, it can’t be afraid. But that’s not the way fear works inside the brain. If you felt fear only when you are face-to-face with the animal that’s going to kill you and eat you, that would be too late. Prey species animals feel afraid when they’re out in the open and exposed to potential predators. For example, a hen has to have a place to hide when she lays her eggs. It doesn’t matter that she’s laying her eggs on a commercial farm inside a barn that no fox will ever get into. The hen has evolved to hide when she lays her eggs. Hiding is what gives her freedom from fear, not living in a barn that keeps the foxes out. I’ll talk more about this in my chapter on chickens.     The freedom to express normal behavior is even more complicated and hard to apply in the real world. In many cases, it’s impossible to give a domestic or captive animal the freedom to express a normal behavior. For a dog, normal behavior is to roam many miles a day, which is illegal in most towns. Even if it’s not illegal, it’s dangerous. So you have to figure out substitute behaviors that keep your dog happy and stimulated.     In other cases, we don’t know how to create the right living conditions because we don’t know enough about what the normal behavior of a particular animal is. Cheetahs are a good example. Zookeepers tried to breed cheetahs for years with almost no success. That’s a common problem in zoos. Breeding is one of the most basic and normal behaviors there is. There wouldn’t be any animals or people without it. But a lot of animals living in captivity don’t mate successfully because there’s something wrong with their living conditions that stops them from acting naturally. The cheetah-breeding problem was finally solved in 1994, when a study of cheetahs on the Serengeti Plains came out and everyone realized male and female cheetahs didn’t live together in the wild the way they did in zoos. When zoos separated the female cheetahs from the males, they turned out to be easy to breed in captivity.     Animal distress is even more mysterious. What is distress in an animal? Is it anger? Is it loneliness? Is it boredom? Is boredom a feeling? And how can you tell if an animal is lonely or bored?     Although a lot of good work has been done on mental welfare for animals, it’s hard for pet owners, farmers, ranchers, and zookeepers to use it because they don’t have clear guidelines. Right now, when a zoo wants to improve welfare, what usually happens is that the staff tries everything they can think of that they have the money and the personnel to implement. Mostly they focus on the animal’s behavior and try to get it acting as naturally as possible.     I believe that the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it’s a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal, or a pet, is to base animal welfare programs on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal’s emotions right, we will have fewer problem behaviors.     That might sound like a radical statement, but some of the research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my own thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.     Of course, usually — though not always — the more freedom you give an animal to act naturally, the better, because normal behaviors evolved to satisfy the core emotions. When a hen hides to lay her eggs, the hiding behavior turns off fear. But if you can’t give an animal the freedom to act naturally, then you should think about how to satisfy the emotion that motivates the behavior by giving the animal other things to do. Focus on the emotion, not the behavior.     So far, research in animal behavior agrees with the neuroscience research on emotions. A really good study on whether animals have purely behavioral needs was done with gerbils. Gerbils love to dig and tunnel, and a lot of them develop a corner-digging stereotypy when they’re around thirty days old. A stereotypy is an abnormal repetitive behavior (ARB for short), such as a lion or tiger pacing back and forth in its cage for hours on end. Pets and farm animals can develop stereotypies, too. Stereotypies are defined as abnormal behaviors that are repetitive, invariant (lions always pace the exact same path in their cages), and seemingly pointless.     An adult gerbil spends up to 30 percent of its "active time" doing stereotypic digging in the corner of its cage. That would never happen in nature, and many researchers have hypothesized that the reason captive gerbils develop stereotypic digging is that they have a biological need to dig that they can’t express inside a cage.     On the other hand, in nature gerbils don’t dig just to be digging. They dig to create underground tunnels and nests. Once they’ve hollowed out their underground home, they stop digging. Maybe what the gerbil needs is the result of the digging, not the behavior itself. A Swiss psychologist named Christoph Wiedenmayer set up an experiment to find out. He put one set of baby gerbils in a cage with dry sand they could dig in, and another set in a cage with a predug burrow system but nothing soft to dig in. The gerbils in the sand-filled box developed digging stereotypies right away, whereas none of the gerbils in the cage with the burrows did.     That shows that the motivation for a gerbil’s digging stereotypy is a need to hide inside a sheltered space, not a need to dig. The gerbil needs the emotion of feeling safe, not the action of digging. Animals don’t have purely behavioral needs, and if an animal expresses a normal behavior in an abnormal environment, its welfare may be poor. A gerbil that spends 30 percent of its time digging without being able to make a tunnel does not have good welfare.

The Blue-Ribbon Emotions All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain. Most pet owners probably already believe this, but I find that a lot of executives, plant managers, and even some veterinarians and researchers still don’t believe that animals have emotions. The first thing I tell them is that the same psychiatric medications, such as Prozac, that work for humans also work for animals. Unless you are an expert, when you dissect a pig’s brain it’s difficult to tell the difference between the lower-down parts of the animal’s brain and the lower-down parts of a human brain. Human beings have a much bigger neocortex, but the core emotions aren’t located in the neocortex. They’re in the lower-down part of the brain.     When people are suffering mentally, they want to feel better — they want to stop having bad emotions and start having good emotions. That’s the right goal with animals, too. Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University who wrote the book Affective Neuroscience and is one of the most important researchers in the field, calls the core emotion systems the "blue-ribbon emotions," because they "generate well-organized behavior sequences that can be evoked by localized electrical stimulation of the brain." This means that when you stimulate the brain systems for one of the core emotions, you always get the same behaviors from the animal. If you stimulate the anger system, the animal snarls and bites. If you stimulate the fear system, the animal freezes or runs away.

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Animals Make Us Human 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 151 reviews.
StevenJ More than 1 year ago
I believe that I have read all of Dr. Grandin's previous books, however this to me is the best one yet! As someone who nearly never marks up a book, my copy of Animals Make Us Human has now set the record for my most folded, underlined and highlighted so far! Dr. Grandin provides numerous "ah-HAH" moments..presenting us with ideas where you immediately feel its' truth. As an example, I've never been able to buy into the "alpha-dog" concept presented in so many dog training books and popular TV shows. Employing domination techniques (and especially an "alpha-roll") is counter-intuitive when I look into the eyes of my canine friends. Dr. Grandin cites studies of wolves in their natural environment that indicate that, "In the wild, wolves don't live in wolf packs, and they don't have an alpha male who fights the other wolves to maintain his dominance. Our whole image of wolf packs is completely wrong. Instead, wolves live in the way people do: in families made up of a mom, a dad, and their children." To some, the difference between an alpha male and a father may not seem so significant, but to me it makes all the difference in the world. It's the difference between a relationship based in dominance and aggression and one based on love and mutual respect. For all serious students of our relationship with dogs this is not only a "must read", but a "must read twice"!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have long been interested in Temple Grandin, who overcame the effects of her autism to pursue advanced degrees and become a nationally known animal scientist. (She was profiled in one of Oliver Sack's early books. After introductory chapters that explain the four basic brain responses of all animals, she starts discussing individual species of pets and livestock. At first I had thought I was just read the sections about creatures that interested me, but the book was so interesting I couldn't put it down, finishing everything. The book runs in that great middle ground--researched and documented enough to satisfy specialists, but very readable and interesting to the layman with only the average background in science. Although Grandin makes very few connections between the reactions of animals and humans, it's not hard to see some interesting parallels. Only the title is confusing; it really does not represent the theme or content of the book accurately.
SUSAN89 More than 1 year ago
It's more information than the normal reader would like to know about dog/horse/pig behavior and how farm animals are treated, but the consumer must be aware the process of meat when it arrives in the market. I eat very little meat since reading this book. It's good to hear that improvements have been made in the treatment of animals since the 1980's, but it is also noted there's still needs to be more done in the management of these processing factories and changing the behavior of the stock people. By reading this book, hopefully, more people will eat less meat, so we don't have this mass market of animals. I believe in the small farms and animals not be caged in. I will not eat at MacDonalds since they need to buy from free range farms like Chipotle does, that do not abuse animals MacDonalds has made some improvements, but it's not enough.
realitychecklh More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book with great anticipation for good insight into the mind of dogs, but was disappointed in the content and accuracy of the information given. The information given seemed awkward and referred to other sources rather than her own insights and studies. The sources given did not provide new or even accurate information. Having closely worked with dogs and other species for over thirty years, I found many of the conclusions flawed and inaccurate. The authors insight into livestock behavior in her other books has been amazing. I didn't find that same insight into pet animals or dogs.
franny264 More than 1 year ago
This book had been gives great perspective into all kinds of behaviors..interesting...thoughtful..a wonderful gift...loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book fascinating. I love finding out more about many animals - how they communicate and how their brains work (I include us as Great Apes among the animals). She also writes about her autism and how her brain works in relation to other animals. There is a bit on animals raised for meat or products. Some methods are troubling but she focuses on making the animals lives more comfortable and better. I found the "blue-ribbon emotions" scale easy to understand. In Vermont we get cabin fever in winter. Now I know my cat and I need more SEEKING and PLAY behavior.
marjo More than 1 year ago
If you're just looking for an interesting read, I highly recommend Temple Grandin's prior book, "Animals in Translation" . . . whether you have a special connection to an animal or not. This latest book, while also interesting, seems more directed at the commercial livestock industry and animal research. That said, it's easy to read and understand. The author is autistic and truly gifted regarding the subject matter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!I am only12 and i like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Useful and relevant to everyday experiences with non human animals. Also useful in understanding our human selves.
DeeBoone More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical silly animal book. As an animal lover I find Temple Grandin's book to be absolutely mesmerizing. Amazingly, after one reading, I feel as if I have an enhanced perceptive of animals. If you want more insight into animal behavior, I suggest you purchase Animals Make Us Human.
Fortcollinsreader More than 1 year ago
I have read everything ever written by Temple Grandin. Animals Make us Human is a quintessential book for every animal lover written for the general reader. Dr. Grandin is engaging and gives us the most wonderful insight into the animal world. I highly recommend this book
dogloverBO More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent. I have so much respect for Temple Grandin and her knowledge. She is so thoughtful, brilliant and informative in her presentation of information. I love her gentle kind heart for the animals and the animals that are part of our daily food. The animals should be treated with respect and their stress levels reduced. We need more people like Temple to bring awareness to this aspect of our daily lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are the type of person who loves animals and wants to see them treated well, no matter their lot in life, this is the book for you. Ms. Grandin, in spite of, or possibly because of, being autistic, has keen insight into animal behavior, and does a wonderful job explaining what works and what doesnt when it comes to keeping our pets, and yes, our food, happy and safe. She truly does teach us how our furry friends are complex, emotional creatures, much like ourselves, and should be treated with the same dignity and respect we all expect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. As someone who loves animals and has always worried about my carnivorous nature, this book brings things to light. Temple Grandin has become a hero of mine.
Avalonmist More than 1 year ago
Temple Grandin's insight is amazing! Her ability to impart information and knowledge is straighforward and spot-on. Animals Make Us Human is a definitive work on how the ways we interact with animals can make our interaction with them easier for all of us. Not to mention, it imparts that it's okay to be "different" and idiosynchratic. Rather than just stating how we should act around and treat the different breeds of animals, Temple gives us the reasons why and the benefits of the doing so. I like that there are chapters on animals that I don't come in contact with. It enhanced my enjoyment of the book, as well as being informative in ways I may benefit from in the future. The chapters on cats and dogs were especially helpful and enjoyable. I could easily envision the animals responding to their interaction with humans, both positively and negatively. I have the feeling that I'll be referring back to these chapters, in addition to passing the info on to others. All, in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm very much looking forward to reading Temple Grandin's additional works!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be filled with common sense information and genuine compassion that only Temple Grandin's gift can bring into focus. Her no nonsense style brings to light how we can be loving and respectful to the extended members of our family. I look forward to reading anything else that Ms. Grandin puts into print.
eucharist More than 1 year ago
Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson have compilied an insightful informative book on animal behavior. It provides a window into understanding what possibly goes on in the minds of species specific animals. I was particularly intrigued with the chapters on cats and dogs. However, having been raised on a farm the chapters on cows, horses, pigs and chickens, etc. were equally interesting. My thanks goes to an author who has contributed so much to the area of animal science and whose personal life with its struggles and triumphs is an inspiration to us all.
Griffincat More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Grandin doesn't discuss every possible companion animal (or research animal, for that matter) but she does describe how we as people and pet owners can work to improve the lives and welfare of the animals around us. It's not a vegan screed, either. This was a fast read, but absorbing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author should have limited the book to what she knows most about - livestock. She should not have attempted cats. She obviously doesn't have enough experience with cats - "don't have expressive faces."???? bah!! The book did not really offer a lot of specific ways to improve your own animals lives - mostly mentions work she's done in the industry. Although the references to other sources may be helpful. Thoughts on seeking and fear, emphasizing that animals have feelings, and are due respect are the high points. Informed consumerism with respect to animal industries is another good point about the book.
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