Temple Grandin
FORT COLLINS, Colo.  –  On April 24, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., professor of animal science at Colorado State Univ., gave the students of her Introduction to Animal Welfare course one last lecture prior to their final exam for the spring semester. Grandin, who is also a longtime contributing editor to MEAT+POULTRY, has taught at CSU for almost 30 years and has no intention of stopping. “Teaching I will do until I drop dead,” Grandin told M+P in a 2016 report about her academic commitment.

 This lecture detailed the auditing system she developed to ensure proper animal welfare standards are objectively monitored and measured for livestock, including cattle, swine, and chickens. Grandin highlighted many of the best practices recommended for animal handling personnel working facilities such as ranches, feedlots, auction barns and processing plants.

She discussed potential causes of discomfort and fear in livestock. Sources include reflections and shadows, which can make animals balk; slippery floors, which can cause slipping and falling; as well as contrasts in lighting, which can also cause balking. These and other factors can make animals distressed, something animal welfare personnel should work toward preventing, especially when it comes to procedures such as the proper stunning of livestock. For example, Grandin stated that when an electrical stunning device has been properly applied to a hog, a Grand Mal epileptic seizure occurs, inducing insensibility.

 She also discussed how and where to appropriately stun other livestock, such as cattle, using a captive-bolt stunner. “You don’t shoot it between the eyes. It’s in the middle of the forehead,” she said. Based on Grandin’s statement, if a person shot an animal between the eyes with a captive-bolt stunner, it would only cause great distress as opposed to quickly and efficiently rendering it insensible. Grandin then addressed the increasing number of pork and poultry processors utilizing controlled atmosphere stunning. For chickens, a chamber is filled with carbon dioxide (CO2) and stunning occurs by gradually increasing the amount of CO2 present. A clear sign of insensibility or unconsciousness resulting from exposure to CO2 is known as loss of posture, which Grandin describes as when, “it falls over and can no longer stand, and loses consciousness.”

 She also covered how, after stunning, there are clear and consistent signs of insensibility. For example, if a cow doesn’t respond to its eye being touched (via blinking), and its head is “floppy,” it has been successfully stunned. One sign of improper stunning of cattle or hogs can be identified after the animal has been shackled. If a pig or cow’s back is arching, a behavior known as a righting reflex, it is regaining consciousness. Shackling and hanging an animal that has been improperly stunned is unethical and from an auditing standpoint, unacceptable.

 While the goals of good animal welfare practices include treating livestock in a humane and ethical manner, there are also financial implications in such practices. This is because poorly handled animals are more likely to yield poor quality meat, which can result in lost profits. This makes it that much more important to treat food animals with proper care. Grandin explained, as an example, what can cause bruising in livestock and why it is monetarily detrimental. Today, many cattle breeds are taller than their predecessors and therefore, are more likely to sustain back bruises from older handling systems. Modifications of trucks and handling equipment can reduce back bruises on these cattle. Grandin explained how protruding metal edges in holding pens or driving alleys can cause more severe bruising in livestock, and thus, care should be taken to make sure such edges are eliminated. The reason bruising in cattle is so important is because, according to Grandin, meat that has been bruised isn’t marketable for human consumption. Grandin advocated making feedlot personnel and livestock transporters liable for any bruising or injuries that occur when cattle are in their care, declaring, “You make people accountable for bruises, and have to pay for them- they magically go away.” 

 At the end of the lecture, Grandin allowed for questions and comments about the course from her students, made up primarily of sophomores and juniors who were taking the class as either an elective or as part of their earning a degree in animal science. When asked what they learned in the class, comments ranged from the importance of training and education among live animal handlers to the vital role of properly maintaining equipment, such as captive-bolt stunners. As the class ended for the day, Grandin, being blunt and straight-to-the-point as she always is, stated, “I hope you were able to learn some new things.”