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Bookmarks Issue: 
40-May-June-2009
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Creating the Best Life for Animals

A-Animals Make Us HumanFollowing the success of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2005), animal behavior expert Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University professor with a Ph.D. in animal science, presents readers with another intriguing look into the animal world. Diagnosed with autism as a toddler, Grandin claims that the disorder gives her special insight into the thought processes of animals, and she uses this knowledge to improve conditions in the factory farming industry.

The Topic: Citing the work of Washington State University neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, Temple Grandin argues that, whether companion, commercial, or captive, all animals under the care of humans deserve "a decent life" and "a painless death." The best way, she claims, to enrich an animal’s life is to create an environment that engages its positive emotions (seeking and play) while simultaneously subduing its negative emotions (rage, fear, and panic)—a tall order, considering that "a lot of executives, plant managers, and even some veterinarians and researchers still don’t believe that animals have emotions." Grandin uses the latest scientific research and her own personal observations to explain the idiosyncrasies of animal behavior, insisting that animals and humans have much more in common than previously believed.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. $26. ISBN: 0151014892

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Animals Make Us Human is an engaging read narrated in a human voice that even borders on the folksy. But in writing about animals, Grandin’s manner—although always empathetic—is brisk rather than sentimental." Marjorie Kehe

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Animal welfare is the heart of her new work, but this time she goes beyond physical well-being to ask what makes an animal happy. … Grandin mixes in some wonderful anecdotes—her account of a cat so sociable it liked to climb in the bathtub with its owner is straight out of James Herriot." Tricia Springstubb

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"For pet owners, her perspective is invaluable, but slaughterhouses aren’t likely to change without an economic incentive to match Grandin’s moral one." Jake Tracer

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Grandin expresses smart ideas through accessible language; Grandin also does a fine job of weaving in anecdotes from others’ research, as well as from her own life—her scientific research and her experiences as a person with a form of autism." Kristin Thiel

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"This book is chock-full of astounding insights, from why dogs are more likely to get into fights than wolves, to why some horses go bonkers at the sight of a garden hose, to why black cats tend to be friendlier than cats of other colors. … A well-written, down-to-earth look into the lives of lots of animals, including animals that make up part of our food chain." Rebecca Jones

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is a good deal of rehashing of material from her previous book, and she leans more here on the ideas of others than she did before. But to remark that Animals Make Us Human is a slightly lesser book than Animals in Translation is like saying Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys is a slightly lesser album than Sail Away. If you liked the first one, you’re going to like the second." Dwight Garner

Critical Summary

Picking up where Animals in Translation left off, Grandin provides pet owners, farmers, livestock managers, and zoo keepers with concrete suggestions for improving the lives of the animals in their care. But "don’t let the book’s snuggly title fool you," declares the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Grandin is primarily a scientist, and no Marley romps through these pages." There aren’t any commandments to readers to lay down their forks, either: Grandin believes it is entirely ethical for humans to use animals commercially, provided they are treated with compassion and respect. Unsentimental and down-to-earth, Grandin’s inspiring and insightful book is a treasure trove of fascinating facts and anecdotes, though some of the chapters on factory farming may be disturbing. Critics agree that "we’re lucky to have Temple Grandin" (New York Times).

Also by the Author

Animals in Translation Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior (2004): Arguing that animals, like autistic humans, think visually rather than verbally, Grandin paints a fascinating portrait, by turns comfortingly familiar and unsettlingly foreign, of the animal kingdom. ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2005)