Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

by Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson

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The best-selling animal advocate Temple Grandin offers the most exciting exploration of how animals feel since The Hidden Life of Dogs.

In her groundbreaking and best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her distinguished career as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel. Now she builds on those insights to show us how to give our animals the best and happiest life—on their terms, not ours.

It’s usually easy to pinpoint the cause of physical pain in animals, but to know what is causing them emotional distress is much harder. Drawing on the latest research and her own work, Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals. Then she explains how to fulfill them for dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, and zoo animals. Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures.

Animals Make Us Human is the culmination of almost thirty years of research, experimentation, and experience.

This is essential reading for anyone who’s ever owned, cared for, or simply cared about an animal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547248233
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/12/2010
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 340
Sales rank: 149,798
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

TEMPLE GRANDIN is one of the world’s most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. She is a professor at Colorado State University and the author of several best-selling books, which have sold more than a million copies. The HBO movie based on her life, starring Claire Danes, received seven Emmy Awards.

CATHERINE JOHNSON, Ph.D., is a writer specializing in neuropsychiatry and the brain. She cowrote Animals in Translation and served as a trustee of the National Alliance for Autism Research for seven years. She lives with her husband and three sons—two of whom have autism—in New York.

Read an Excerpt

WHAT DOES AN ANIMAL NEED to have a good life?
     I don’t mean a good life physically. We know a lot about what kind of food, water, exercise, and veterinary care animals need to grow well and be healthy.
     I mean a good mental life.
     What does an animal need to be happy? The animal welfare movement has been thinking about animals’ mental welfare at least since the 1960s. That’s when the British government commissioned the Brambell Report on intensive animal production. Intensive animal production means very big farms raising large numbers of animals for slaughter or egg production in very small spaces compared to traditional farms. The Brambell committee listed the five freedoms animals should have. The first three freedoms are about physical welfare, and the last two are about mental welfare:

     • freedom from hunger and thirst
     • freedom from discomfort
     • freedom from pain, injury, or disease
     • freedom to express normal behavior
     • freedom from fear and distress

1 What Do Animals Need?

Freedom is a confusing guide for people trying to give animals a good life. Even freedom from fear, which sounds straightforward, isn’t simple or obvious. For example, zookeepers and farmers usually assume that as long as a prey species animal doesn’t have any predators around, it can’t be afraid. But that’s not the way fear works inside the brain. If you felt fear only when you are face-to-face with the animal that’s going to kill you and eat you, that would be too late. Prey species animals feel afraid when they’re out in the open and exposed to potential predators. For example, a hen has to have a place to hide when she lays her eggs. It doesn’t matter that she’s laying her eggs on a commercial farm inside a barn that no fox will ever get into. The hen has evolved to hide when she lays her eggs. Hiding is what gives her freedom from fear, not living in a barn that keeps the foxes out. I’ll talk more about this in my chapter on chickens.
     The freedom to express normal behavior is even more complicated and hard to apply in the real world. In many cases, it’s impossible to give a domestic or captive animal the freedom to express a normal behavior. For a dog, normal behavior is to roam many miles a day, which is illegal in most towns. Even if it’s not illegal, it’s dangerous. So you have to figure out substitute behaviors that keep your dog happy and stimulated.
     In other cases, we don’t know how to create the right living conditions because we don’t know enough about what the normal behavior of a particular animal is. Cheetahs are a good example. Zookeepers tried to breed cheetahs for years with almost no success. That’s a common problem in zoos. Breeding is one of the most basic and normal behaviors there is. There wouldn’t be any animals or people without it. But a lot of animals living in captivity don’t mate successfully because there’s something wrong with their living conditions that stops them from acting naturally. The cheetah-breeding problem was finally solved in 1994, when a study of cheetahs on the Serengeti Plains came out and everyone realized male and female cheetahs didn’t live together in the wild the way they did in zoos. When zoos separated the female cheetahs from the males, they turned out to be easy to breed in captivity.
     Animal distress is even more mysterious. What is distress in an animal? Is it anger? Is it loneliness? Is it boredom? Is boredom a feeling? And how can you tell if an animal is lonely or bored?
     Although a lot of good work has been done on mental welfare for animals, it’s hard for pet owners, farmers, ranchers, and zookeepers to use it because they don’t have clear guidelines. Right now, when a zoo wants to improve welfare, what usually happens is that the staff tries everything they can think of that they have the money and the personnel to implement. Mostly they focus on the animal’s behavior and try to get it acting as naturally as possible.
     I believe that the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it’s a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal, or a pet, is to base animal welfare programs on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal’s emotions right, we will have fewer problem behaviors.
     That might sound like a radical statement, but some of the research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my own thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.
     Of course, usually — though not always — the more freedom you give an animal to act naturally, the better, because normal behaviors evolved to satisfy the core emotions. When a hen hides to lay her eggs, the hiding behavior turns off fear. But if you can’t give an animal the freedom to act naturally, then you should think about how to satisfy the emotion that motivates the behavior by giving the animal other things to do. Focus on the emotion, not the behavior.
     So far, research in animal behavior agrees with the neuroscience research on emotions. A really good study on whether animals have purely behavioral needs was done with gerbils. Gerbils love to dig and tunnel, and a lot of them develop a corner-digging stereotypy when they’re around thirty days old. A stereotypy is an abnormal repetitive behavior (ARB for short), such as a lion or tiger pacing back and forth in its cage for hours on end. Pets and farm animals can develop stereotypies, too. Stereotypies are defined as abnormal behaviors that are repetitive, invariant (lions always pace the exact same path in their cages), and seemingly pointless.
     An adult gerbil spends up to 30 percent of its "active time" doing stereotypic digging in the corner of its cage. That would never happen in nature, and many researchers have hypothesized that the reason captive gerbils develop stereotypic digging is that they have a biological need to dig that they can’t express inside a cage.
     On the other hand, in nature gerbils don’t dig just to be digging. They dig to create underground tunnels and nests. Once they’ve hollowed out their underground home, they stop digging. Maybe what the gerbil needs is the result of the digging, not the behavior itself. A Swiss psychologist named Christoph Wiedenmayer set up an experiment to find out. He put one set of baby gerbils in a cage with dry sand they could dig in, and another set in a cage with a predug burrow system but nothing soft to dig in. The gerbils in the sand-filled box developed digging stereotypies right away, whereas none of the gerbils in the cage with the burrows did.
     That shows that the motivation for a gerbil’s digging stereotypy is a need to hide inside a sheltered space, not a need to dig. The gerbil needs the emotion of feeling safe, not the action of digging. Animals don’t have purely behavioral needs, and if an animal expresses a normal behavior in an abnormal environment, its welfare may be poor. A gerbil that spends 30 percent of its time digging without being able to make a tunnel does not have good welfare.

The Blue-Ribbon Emotions
All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain. Most pet owners probably already believe this, but I find that a lot of executives, plant managers, and even some veterinarians and researchers still don’t believe that animals have emotions. The first thing I tell them is that the same psychiatric medications, such as Prozac, that work for humans also work for animals. Unless you are an expert, when you dissect a pig’s brain it’s difficult to tell the difference between the lower-down parts of the animal’s brain and the lower-down parts of a human brain. Human beings have a much bigger neocortex, but the core emotions aren’t located in the neocortex. They’re in the lower-down part of the brain.
     When people are suffering mentally, they want to feel better — they want to stop having bad emotions and start having good emotions. That’s the right goal with animals, too. Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University who wrote the book Affective Neuroscience and is one of the most important researchers in the field, calls the core emotion systems the "blue-ribbon emotions," because they "generate well-organized behavior sequences that can be evoked by localized electrical stimulation of the brain." This means that when you stimulate the brain systems for one of the core emotions, you always get the same behaviors from the animal. If you stimulate the anger system, the animal snarls and bites. If you stimulate the fear system, the animal freezes or runs away.

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Animals Make Us Human 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 160 reviews.
StevenJ More than 1 year ago
I believe that I have read all of Dr. Grandin's previous books, however this to me is the best one yet! As someone who nearly never marks up a book, my copy of Animals Make Us Human has now set the record for my most folded, underlined and highlighted so far! Dr. Grandin provides numerous "ah-HAH" moments..presenting us with ideas where you immediately feel its' truth. As an example, I've never been able to buy into the "alpha-dog" concept presented in so many dog training books and popular TV shows. Employing domination techniques (and especially an "alpha-roll") is counter-intuitive when I look into the eyes of my canine friends. Dr. Grandin cites studies of wolves in their natural environment that indicate that, "In the wild, wolves don't live in wolf packs, and they don't have an alpha male who fights the other wolves to maintain his dominance. Our whole image of wolf packs is completely wrong. Instead, wolves live in the way people do: in families made up of a mom, a dad, and their children." To some, the difference between an alpha male and a father may not seem so significant, but to me it makes all the difference in the world. It's the difference between a relationship based in dominance and aggression and one based on love and mutual respect. For all serious students of our relationship with dogs this is not only a "must read", but a "must read twice"!
realitychecklh More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book with great anticipation for good insight into the mind of dogs, but was disappointed in the content and accuracy of the information given. The information given seemed awkward and referred to other sources rather than her own insights and studies. The sources given did not provide new or even accurate information. Having closely worked with dogs and other species for over thirty years, I found many of the conclusions flawed and inaccurate. The authors insight into livestock behavior in her other books has been amazing. I didn't find that same insight into pet animals or dogs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have long been interested in Temple Grandin, who overcame the effects of her autism to pursue advanced degrees and become a nationally known animal scientist. (She was profiled in one of Oliver Sack's early books. After introductory chapters that explain the four basic brain responses of all animals, she starts discussing individual species of pets and livestock. At first I had thought I was just read the sections about creatures that interested me, but the book was so interesting I couldn't put it down, finishing everything. The book runs in that great middle ground--researched and documented enough to satisfy specialists, but very readable and interesting to the layman with only the average background in science. Although Grandin makes very few connections between the reactions of animals and humans, it's not hard to see some interesting parallels. Only the title is confusing; it really does not represent the theme or content of the book accurately.
SUSAN89 More than 1 year ago
It's more information than the normal reader would like to know about dog/horse/pig behavior and how farm animals are treated, but the consumer must be aware the process of meat when it arrives in the market. I eat very little meat since reading this book. It's good to hear that improvements have been made in the treatment of animals since the 1980's, but it is also noted there's still needs to be more done in the management of these processing factories and changing the behavior of the stock people. By reading this book, hopefully, more people will eat less meat, so we don't have this mass market of animals. I believe in the small farms and animals not be caged in. I will not eat at MacDonalds since they need to buy from free range farms like Chipotle does, that do not abuse animals MacDonalds has made some improvements, but it's not enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book fascinating. I love finding out more about many animals - how they communicate and how their brains work (I include us as Great Apes among the animals). She also writes about her autism and how her brain works in relation to other animals. There is a bit on animals raised for meat or products. Some methods are troubling but she focuses on making the animals lives more comfortable and better. I found the "blue-ribbon emotions" scale easy to understand. In Vermont we get cabin fever in winter. Now I know my cat and I need more SEEKING and PLAY behavior.
marjo More than 1 year ago
If you're just looking for an interesting read, I highly recommend Temple Grandin's prior book, "Animals in Translation" . . . whether you have a special connection to an animal or not. This latest book, while also interesting, seems more directed at the commercial livestock industry and animal research. That said, it's easy to read and understand. The author is autistic and truly gifted regarding the subject matter.
franny264 More than 1 year ago
This book had been gives great perspective into all kinds of behaviors..interesting...thoughtful..a wonderful gift...loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!I am only12 and i like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Useful and relevant to everyday experiences with non human animals. Also useful in understanding our human selves.
DeeBoone More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical silly animal book. As an animal lover I find Temple Grandin's book to be absolutely mesmerizing. Amazingly, after one reading, I feel as if I have an enhanced perceptive of animals. If you want more insight into animal behavior, I suggest you purchase Animals Make Us Human.
Fortcollinsreader More than 1 year ago
I have read everything ever written by Temple Grandin. Animals Make us Human is a quintessential book for every animal lover written for the general reader. Dr. Grandin is engaging and gives us the most wonderful insight into the animal world. I highly recommend this book
dogloverBO More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent. I have so much respect for Temple Grandin and her knowledge. She is so thoughtful, brilliant and informative in her presentation of information. I love her gentle kind heart for the animals and the animals that are part of our daily food. The animals should be treated with respect and their stress levels reduced. We need more people like Temple to bring awareness to this aspect of our daily lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are the type of person who loves animals and wants to see them treated well, no matter their lot in life, this is the book for you. Ms. Grandin, in spite of, or possibly because of, being autistic, has keen insight into animal behavior, and does a wonderful job explaining what works and what doesnt when it comes to keeping our pets, and yes, our food, happy and safe. She truly does teach us how our furry friends are complex, emotional creatures, much like ourselves, and should be treated with the same dignity and respect we all expect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. As someone who loves animals and has always worried about my carnivorous nature, this book brings things to light. Temple Grandin has become a hero of mine.
Avalonmist More than 1 year ago
Temple Grandin's insight is amazing! Her ability to impart information and knowledge is straighforward and spot-on. Animals Make Us Human is a definitive work on how the ways we interact with animals can make our interaction with them easier for all of us. Not to mention, it imparts that it's okay to be "different" and idiosynchratic. Rather than just stating how we should act around and treat the different breeds of animals, Temple gives us the reasons why and the benefits of the doing so. I like that there are chapters on animals that I don't come in contact with. It enhanced my enjoyment of the book, as well as being informative in ways I may benefit from in the future. The chapters on cats and dogs were especially helpful and enjoyable. I could easily envision the animals responding to their interaction with humans, both positively and negatively. I have the feeling that I'll be referring back to these chapters, in addition to passing the info on to others. All, in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm very much looking forward to reading Temple Grandin's additional works!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be filled with common sense information and genuine compassion that only Temple Grandin's gift can bring into focus. Her no nonsense style brings to light how we can be loving and respectful to the extended members of our family. I look forward to reading anything else that Ms. Grandin puts into print.
eucharist More than 1 year ago
Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson have compilied an insightful informative book on animal behavior. It provides a window into understanding what possibly goes on in the minds of species specific animals. I was particularly intrigued with the chapters on cats and dogs. However, having been raised on a farm the chapters on cows, horses, pigs and chickens, etc. were equally interesting. My thanks goes to an author who has contributed so much to the area of animal science and whose personal life with its struggles and triumphs is an inspiration to us all.
Griffincat More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Grandin doesn't discuss every possible companion animal (or research animal, for that matter) but she does describe how we as people and pet owners can work to improve the lives and welfare of the animals around us. It's not a vegan screed, either. This was a fast read, but absorbing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author should have limited the book to what she knows most about - livestock. She should not have attempted cats. She obviously doesn't have enough experience with cats - "don't have expressive faces."???? bah!! The book did not really offer a lot of specific ways to improve your own animals lives - mostly mentions work she's done in the industry. Although the references to other sources may be helpful. Thoughts on seeking and fear, emphasizing that animals have feelings, and are due respect are the high points. Informed consumerism with respect to animal industries is another good point about the book.
danawl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A look at how a variety of domesticated and zoo animals see the world and respond to human attempts to change their behavior. I enjoyed reading about how we should treat dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other animals in a kind manner.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've only recently heard about Temple Grandin, that she is a woman with autism and that there has just been a movie made about her life. So this is the first of her books that I've read. Grandin has a PhD in animal science and has spent much of her life working with farmers, ranchers, and meat handlers to make life easier for the animals that end up as food.In this book she has chapters she starts with some of what neurological studies of animals have shown, including what emotions animals feel All tend to be have the same positive and negative emotions. The main positive emotion is seeking, which is mostly curiosity about the environment. Other emotions are rage, fear, panic, lust, care, and play. So Grandin tries to privide animals with environments that stimulate the positive seeking, lust, care and play emotions and do not trigger fear, panic, and rage. This isn't entirely cut and dried, though, as she thinks puppies, for example, need to learn to tolerate some frustration in order to learn they can't always get what they want right away.She has chapters on different kinds of animals most important to humans as pets, co-workers, companions, and even food. The chapters cover dogs, cats, horses, pigs, cattle, chickens and other poultry, zoos, and then a chapter on why she works with the food industry. All of it is organized around explaining what gives all of these animals the best possible life. She shows that not only do individual animals differ -everyone who has had more than one pet knows that - but that different kinds of animals have different social structures and needs. She is also willing to challenge conventional wisdom. In the chapter on dogs, for instance, she reveals that most of what we think we know about wolves and dominance hierarchies is wrong. Wolves in the wild live in families of dad, mom, and pups. There isn't a whole lot of dominance shown between mom and dad, and siblings almost never fight for dominance. Dominance hierarchies do come into play between wolves and dogs when animals that aren't part of a family group are forced to live together and figure out how to get along. She believes it is more natural, though, for dog owners to think of themselves more as parents than pack alphas. The end result is somewhat the same - teaching the dog manners and how to accept boundaries.Grandin has been heavily criticized for some animal activists for working with the food industry. I honor her for it... she knows that it will be a long time, if ever, before humans stop breeding animals for meat, and what she has done is figure out way of making the animals' lives better. That seems to me to be a worthy goal, though she admits that the most difficult part of making those lives better is to train those who deal with the animals in behaviors they don't always find easy.This book is a fine one and I plan to read Grandin's books about her childhood and her autism.
pseedie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
temple makes this real, unfortunately the co-author edits temple's writing so much so that it doesn't sound like temple anymore. If you are very intuitive about animals, there's nothing groundbreaking here, but if you aren't or would like someone in your life to become more aware of the interactions between humans and animals, this book is a good start.
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd intended to read Grandin's "Animals in Translation" years ago, but somehow never got around to it. I saw this sequel on the sale rack and picked it up on impulse and was instantly hooked. As my library inventory suggests, I read quite a bit of animal-related nonfiction, but Grandin and Johnson's is is one of the most unique, readable and practical I have come across. Their blending of behavioral scientist, zoologist, agribusiness engineering and troubleshooting, animal advocacy, academic, wildlife researcher and ethologist disciplines makes this an especially informative and, perhaps more importantly, guide to improving the quality of life for all mammals and birds sharing the Earth with humankind. I particularly appreciated Grandin's Autism-enhanced ability to logically analyze the issue of compassion without distinctions between animals living life as housepets, farm animals in food production settings, lab research subjects, zoo attractions or wild predators/prey. Many who fancy themselves purists on either extreme of animal-related ethics may take offense to the middle ground she's staked out, but there are a lot of animal welfare and scientific, as well as profit margin, benefits to be sown there. Even if you don't end up agreeing with her proposals, I think everybody who takes the time to read this will learn something useful from her observations. A DEFINITE recommend.
edundatscheck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this book I found that there was much I didn't know about our domesticated animals. Grandin examines the reasons these animals act the way they do. Some chapters might also be disturbing when you read about the way certain animals are handled on a regular basis. I am not a vegetarian, but after reading this book, it will make me think twice about how my food got to the table.
maggie1944 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved it. It may be a bit technical for some but for animal lovers it is a must read. She talks about how to assure the lives of our companion animals, our food animals, and our zoo animals can be made the best it can be, given present realities.I really appreciate the fact that Ms Grandin's approach includes her unique perspective which is related to her autism. That gives me so much hope that as a culture we are learning to appreciate and benefit from those among us who are "different".I also appreciate the fact that she is a meat eater, as am I, and she cares about the welfare of the animals which ultimately are consumed by humans. I spent some time as a kid on a ranch and I learned at an early age that the fried chicken and the chickens in the yard had a relationship.Check it out. You may also appreciate her book and perhaps your cat or dog will be glad you did.