Autism and Animal Behavior – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Autism and Animal Behavior

An ardent advocate for the humane treatment of animals and one of the most widely-recognized professionals with autism in the country, world-renowned animal behavior expert Temple Grandin will deliver a lecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Thursday, Sept. 17.

In 2010, Grandin was acknowledged in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world, in the “Heroes” category. She is a noted speaker and author of many books, including “Animals in Translation, Animals Make Us Human,” and “The Autistic Brain,” all of which were New York Times best sellers.

“I think that the HWS community will benefit from seeing an individual who has achieved international acclaim not in spite of her so-called disability but in large part because she has used her unique associated skills to her great advantage,” says Diana Baker, assistant professor of education. “For example, Temple has used her ‘visual thinking’ to reimagine slaughterhouse design based on smoothed-curve pathways to avoid startling and otherwise upsetting animals. Because Temple’s work addresses both autism advocacy as well as animal rights and livestock consulting, I think that her talk will appeal to a broad range of students, faculty, and staff.”

“We’re hoping Temple’s presentation will bridge these two areas,” says Mary Kelly, associate professor of education. “It’s exciting to pull together students interested in agriculture and environmental issues, as well as autism. Temple does a wonderful job of meshing her passion for work and her identity and experiences.”

Grandin will discuss autism and the humane treatment of animals in her talk, “My Life with Autism and the Humane Treatment of Animals,” beginning at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room in Scandling Campus Center. In addition to the lecture, Grandin will meet with audience members and sign copies of her books.

Currently a professor of animal science at Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Grandin also designs livestock systems around the world that more closely match the natural instincts of livestock, reducing stress and unintended injuries. Her writings and the livestock handling facilities she has designed have helped reshape the ways livestock are treated and have helped reduce stress on animals during handling. She has developed an objective scoring system to assess the handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants, which is used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare.

“Temple’s perspectives about both autism and livestock have been deeply influential,” says Jim Ochterski, program manager of the Finger Lakes Institute’s Community Development Center. “The Finger Lakes is home to many thousands of livestock on family farms, and our farmers are always seeking better ways to manage them. I hope a special lecture like this allows local folks to understand parts of our community that are often overlooked — the realities of life with autism and also the realities of how livestock housing can be maintained to optimize their welfare.”

Grandin earned her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College, her M.S. in animal science at Arizona State University and her Ph.D. in animal science from University of Illinois. She has been featured on television shows, including, “20/20,” “48 Hours,” “60 Minutes” and others, and in print, in the New York Times, People Magazine, Forbes and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Double Helix Medal, awarded to individuals who have positively impacted human health by raising awareness and funds for biomedical research. Grandin has received honorary degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, McGill University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. 

Read more about Grandin and her work on her website.

Sponsored by the HWS Provost’s Office – Global Initiative on Disability (GID), the HWS Education Department and the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI), Grandin’s lecture is free, wheelchair accessible, and open to the public.

The GID is a resource for education about disability, providing research, international service trips, speaker series and more to advocate for the inclusion and protection of the rights of individuals with disabilities.

The FLI is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and surrounding environments. In collaboration with regional environmental partners and local and state government offices, the FLI fosters environmentally-sound development practices throughout the region and disseminates knowledge to the public.