Temple Grandin, Colorado State University’s pioneering expert in livestock behavior and welfare, will be inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame on Thursday, March 8, when she and nine other honorees will join the ranks of innovators whose ideas and persistence have elevated Colorado women and shaped the world.
“I’m really honored,” said Grandin, a professor in the CSU Department of Animal Sciences. “I’m hoping some of the things I’ve done will inspire young people to go out there and do some really good things. That’s what makes me really pleased.”
The induction ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. March 8 at the Denver Marriott City Center. For information, visit the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame website, http://www.cogreatwomen.org/.
Also upcoming, CSU is working with PBS to air a documentary tribute video titled “Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds” during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month. The documentary is produced by CSU for the PBS “Women and Girls Lead” international initiative.
Grandin, who has autism, has overcome struggles with the disorder to provide unique insights into farm-animal behavior. With her ability to “think in pictures” and an uncanny connection to livestock, Grandin has designed humane-handling and auditing systems that have improved farm-animal welfare worldwide.
“Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be,” Grandin has said of her work.
Meantime, she has become a hero to people with autism and their families, and often publicly discusses the importance of encouraging different types of thinking – and “quirky, nerdy kids” – for improved problem-solving and innovation.
“We consider Temple Grandin to be a quintessential inductee because she’s not only changed and impacted the livestock industry, but she’s also, on a personal level, really inspired and become a role model for so many individuals with autism and related disorders,” said Ruby Mayeda, chairwoman of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame board of directors. “She’s inspired many parents to see the potential for their children.
“It’s in her core to make a difference,” said Mayeda, noting that Grandin overcame bullying and sexism to meet her goals.
Grandin’s renown has skyrocketed since the release in 2010 of an acclaimed HBO biographical feature film based on her book, “Thinking in Pictures.” Shortly after, TIME magazine named Grandin among the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Despite a dizzying speaking schedule, Grandin is always on campus to teach her livestock handling class at 1 p.m. Tuesdays. She also frequently lectures to CSU veterinary and equine students, and shepherds graduate students through their studies.
Ruth Woiwode, a CSU doctoral student under Grandin’s guidance, recalled the first time she heard her adviser lecture – about the scientifically validated connection between low-stress livestock handling and improved meat quality.
“That tied everything together for me,” Woiwode said, adding, “It’s really fitting that Dr. Grandin is being recognized by the Hall of Fame in Colorado, where she lives. That’s one of the hallmarks of success. This is where her heart is.”
Grandin’s status as an icon in the livestock industry – and the recipient of numerous awards – was not preordained when she joined the CSU faculty in 1990 and began her teaching and research career in earnest, said David Ames, who hired Grandin during his longtime stint as head of CSU Animal Sciences.
“I kind of went out on a limb. She was different,” Ames said, recalling Grandin when she had just attained her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and had earned her chops at cattle feedlots, hog barns and slaughterhouses. With the social difficulties that often accompany autism, Grandin was not yet embraced by the male-dominated livestock industry.
“When I started out, people thought I was really weird,” Grandin admitted without reservation. “The thing that finally made people pay attention to me was my work. I would show my drawings and people would say, ‘Wow! You drew that?’”
Grandin’s work directly addressed the need for improved farm-animal welfare, an issue of heightened concern for activists, consumers and livestock producers, Ames said. He was counseled by Bernard Rollin, a famed CSU animal ethicist, to hire Grandin; Ames got the same advice from other close colleagues.
Twenty-two years later, Rollin and Grandin have put CSU on the map as a leader in teaching, research and outreach on animal welfare, Ames noted.
An essential Grandin theme from the beginning of her career has been that humane handling not only is the right thing to do, but is good for business. Lower livestock stress means greater efficiency and improved profits.
“Temple has solved real-life problems with logic, and has given it a scientific basis,” Ames said. “I’m proud of the Colorado livestock industry for its response. It quickly became, ‘If Temple says it, it’s good.’”
Her impact has gone far beyond Colorado. For instance, McDonald’s requires its meat suppliers worldwide to use Grandin’s humane auditing systems, which measure animal and worker behaviors to ensure low-stress handling at meat-packing plants. Likewise, half the cattle in North America are handled at meat plants with Grandin’s trademark center-track conveyor restrainer.
Said Ames: “Her influence is staggering.”
For more information and to watch a video about Grandin, visit http://www.colostate.edu/templegrandin/.