A longtime columnist for Meat&Poultry, Grandin is the author of AMI’s Recommended Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide, a member of AMI’s Animal Welfare Committee and has been the institute’s principal animal welfare advisor since 1991.
Janet Riley, AMI senior vice president of public affairs and long-time colleague of Grandin’s, led a casual one-on-one interview with Grandin during one of the opening Meat Conference general sessions. The two explained the basic aspects of autism and how the HBO movie depicted Grandin’s condition. “The movie does a great job of showing my visual thinking,” Grandin said. “My brain works like Google images – when I hear a word, I immediately think visually.”
Riley asked her if she could take a pill and no longer be autistic if she would. Grandin said no. “I like the logical way I think,” she told the audience. “I don’t like the fuzzy, emotional way other people think.”
Grandin spoke about her life’s work as an advocate for humane animal handling. “I want the things that I do to make real changes happen in the industry, not just in the abstract,” she said. “In the end, I want to be known as a scientist devoted to animal welfare who just so happens to be autistic.”
Grandin’s biggest message to attendees, as a fellow member of the meat industry, was to be more public with what goes on in meat operations, a common message she promotes. “There are a lot of things on the Internet that are showing the extreme negative side of raising and slaughtering livestock – what some bad operations are doing,” she said. “We need to show how it’s supposed to be done and what tons of the larger operations are actually doing.
“I’ve always said that slaughterhouses should have glass walls. We need to show everyone what we’re doing not just talk about it in the abstract,” she added.
Grandin has a number of videos showing animal stunning on YouTube and she suggested that all operations make videos showing what they do and get them onto their company websites. “Not everyone will want to see them, but at least they’ll be out there and they’ll show what’s really being done in our industry.”