ABOUT THE BOOK:
Following her bestselling Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin takes the next step in Animals Make Us Human by offering insight on how we can create a better, happier, and healthier life for our animals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Temple Grandin earned her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois; she went on to become an associate professor at Colorado State University, and she wrote two books on autism, including the seminal Thinking in Pictures. One of the most celebrated and effective animal advocates on the planet, Grandin revolutionized animal movement systems and spearheaded reform of the quality of life for the world’s agricultural animals.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. In Animals Make Us Human, Temple Grandin proposes that we need to focus on emotions to decrease an animal’s problem behaviors and improve its quality of life. Do you agree with her that all of the animals discussed in the book have emotions? Where have you seen evidence of an animal’s emotions in your own life?
2. “All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain” (p. 4). Grandin defines these as the “blue ribbon” emotions: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, PANIC. These are, perhaps, easier to recognize sometimes in animals than in humans. How do these core emotions correspond in humans? Where in your life do you see yourself, or others, SEEKING? What situations make you PANIC?
3. What is a stereotypy? Is it always a bad thing to see in an animal? Have you ever witnessed an animal with a stereotypy?
4. Grandin writes, “Everyone who is responsible for animals—farmers, ranchers, zookeepers, and pet owners—needs a set of simple, reliable guidelines for creating good mental welfare he can apply to any animal in any situation, and the best guidelines we have are the core emotion systems in the brain. The rule is simple: don’t stimulate RAGE, FEAR, and PANIC if you can help it, and do stimulate SEEKING and also PLAY” (p. 17). Is this sometimes easier said than done? What sort of problem behavior in animals have you encountered in your own life? How might you approach the situation differently after having read this book?
5. Are you a pet owner? How did you choose your pet? What qualities were you looking for in an animal companion and how did you go about finding them?
6. Grandin suggests that since we only recently learned that dogs are genetic wolves, we need to start thinking about dogs in new ways. How does your understanding of wolves and wolf behavior affect how you look at dogs now?
7. “What dogs probably need isn’t a substitute pack leader but a substitute parent. I say that because genetically dogs are juvenile wolves, and young wolves live with their parents and siblings” (p. 24). Do you watch Cesar Milan’s television show? If so, how do you view his techniques in light of Grandin’s theories about whether dogs prefer to live in families or packs and whether they need a pack leader or a parent?
8. If “the most natural existence for a dog is a fence-free, mostly outdoor life with a human owner” (p. 23) is a situation difficult for most dog owners to provide, what are other ways owners can ensure the emotional well-being of their pets? How do the blue ribbon emotions (PANIC, RAGE, FEAR, PLAY, SEEKING) help us solve this problem?
9. What’s wrong with leash laws? Can you think of some safe alternatives?
10. “Telling people that any dog can bite is misleading because it lumps all dogs together. The chances of a completely normal, well-socialized dog who hasn’t been traumatized as a puppy biting a person are tiny” (p. 44). What makes some dogs more aggressive than others? Some communities across the country have movements to ban pit bulls because that particular breed has been known to attack humans. Would you support such a movement?
11. “[Cats] haven’t really been domesticated” (p. 49). What does Grandin mean by this? How did cats come to be pets?
12. Can cats be trained? How?
13. “Housecats might have more complicated emotions than dogs because they’re not as neotenized as dogs” (p. 64). What does this mean? Do you agree? Can you think of examples that might support this argument?
14. What are the social needs of cats? What is “social learning” (p.71) and how do cats use it?
15. Horses are prey animals, in which fear is the dominant emotion. How does understanding the FEAR system in horses help us create a better environment for the animals (p. 78)?
16. How are animals “hyper-specific” (p. 82)? Have you ever encountered this hyper-specificity personally? Being hyper-specific is one way Grandin, as a person with autism, feels she can relate to animals better than most other people. What are some other ways?
17. “One study of horseback riding injuries in England found that riding horses was 20 times as dangerous as riding motorcycles” (p 89). Taking into consideration what Grandin writes about blue ribbon emotions, what can be done to reduce horseback riding injuries?
18. “Almost all horses have been trained using negative reinforcement, not positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement isn’t the same as punishment” (p. 93). Discuss how negative reinforcement works. How does it differ from positive reinforcement? Which is better to use?
19. What does it mean to be “curiously afraid” (p. 107)? Grandin
writes, “New things are always unpredictable, so I conclude that animals and people are programmed to pay attention to and explore new things” (p. 108). Do humans act curiously afraid, too?
20. Grandin suggests that “ineffective, high-stress cattle handling may be a consequence of people getting too far away from nature and from the knowledge of animals and the land their grandparents had” (p. 116). Later she writes, “Why do we have a serious shortage of people going into fieldwork? I think it might go back to childhood, with children staying indoors and playing virtual basketball instead of going outside to shoot hoops” (p. 189-190). What other consequences do you see of people moving too far away from nature? Have you ever used a compass to draw a circle? Have your kids? What does this say about our society and our relationship to nature?
21. “Physically, chickens suffer for three main reasons: poor handling by workers, bad industry practices, and poor genetics” (p. 157). How did it make you feel to read about the poor treatment of chickens and other animals? Were you surprised to hear that some of these practices still exist? Were you motivated to do something about it?
22. What are the best environments we can create for cattle, poultry, and pigs? What did you learn about their blue ribbon emotions, and how does understanding farm animals’ emotions help determine what their living conditions should be? For each industry, Grandin stresses the need for audits and good management of employees to maintain a high-functioning animal processing plant. Why do you think people need incentives to handle animals correctly?
23. Grandin writes that she is “worried about whether we will always have a Jane Goodall” (p. 176). Why do we need people like Jane Goodall? Why is it getting harder to “go in the back door” (p. 176)? Have you ever gone in the back door to secure a job or position?
24. What is abstractification? What does Grandin suggest it means for the future of ecosystems of wild animals?
25. When was the last time you visited a zoo? What do you remember of the animals’ environments there? After reading this book, have your thoughts or feelings about zoos changed?
26. What did you learn from reading this book? Which experiments did you find the most persuasive or interesting? Are there any changes you plan on implementing into your daily life?