Temple Grandin on HBO

I'm so proud to have Temple Grandin's endorsement on the cover of my book. My only problem--how am I going to watch the HBO movie about her life, if I don't get HBO? She's being played by Claire Danes, a fine actress who does a great Grandin imitation. The New York Times gives the movie a glowing review, calling it "funny, instructive, and also intangibly charming."

Grandin is what I'd call a "conscientious participator" in this country's inhumane system of food production. She makes farms and slaughterhouses less miserable for the animals. Some animal rights people disapprove, but I looked into my crystal ball this morning, and this is what I saw: however hard people work to spread veganism, there will still be close to 10 billion animals killed for food over the coming year.  The "left behinds" will vastly outnumber the spared. You can't care about all those animals left behind and disapprove of what Temple Grandin does--and does well. If you want details, have a careful look at her website.

And no, don't be tempted to think that the 10 billion don't matter because animals don't really feel anything, or exist just to be eaten, or want to serve us...(see my book on all those excuses).  But also don't be tempted by propaganda from the other end of the spectrum.  Helping the 10 billion isn't going to swell their numbers.  Most people can be brought around to care about the treatment of farm anmals, but it isn't pivotal.  They're not going to eat less meat because animals are mistreated or eat more because the treatment got better.  The "treatment dependent" omnivore represents a very small subset of eaters.   It would be absurd to neglect the 10 billion in order to hold back these people-- both morally and statistically preposterous.

Now about HBO...does anybody have a clue how to tune in for 2 hours?


Faust said...

Maybe it will show up on HULU?

Jean Kazez said...

Which is.....?

Melissa said...

I recently called our cable company Comcast and added HBO so I wouldn't miss this. I'm told I can cancel the HBO at any time and the charges will be pro-rated. It's 19.95 a month, so if we keep it for a week or two it will cost no more than a night out at the movies. Maybe you could do something like that with your cable company?

Faust said...


Lots of TV shows wind up there. Don't know much about their business model or if anything from HBO winds up there.

I imagine that HBO may push this thing to the web at some point somewhere but it's hard to say.

Taylor said...

I understand the intellectual case you make for welfare reforms that ameliorate the conditions under which animals live and die. And while I'm sure Temple Grandin is an admirable person in many ways, I find something disturbing, and even creepy, about what she does.

I'm tempted to say she loves animals to death, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say she soothes them to death. Apparently she says she doesn't have emotional relationships with people and has no interest in emotional relationships. I assume (correct me if I'm wrong) that while she experiences a kinship with non-humans in terms of the way she perceives the environment, her emotional connection with them is similarly limited.

I saw an interview with Grandin in which she said emphatically about animals: "Gotta eat 'em!" In her article "Animals Are Not Things", she justifies her meat-eating by saying "The cattle I have eaten would have never lived at all if we had not raised them." (I won't bother critiquing that one.)

I've just listened to a 20-minute interview with Claire Danes about her Grandin role. As I write this, the podcast isn't up on the CBC - Q website yet, but I imagine it will be up later today (Friday) or tomorrow.

Jean Kazez said...

Melissa, Thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to look into that.

Taylor, Thanks for the url.

Here's what TG says about meat-eating in "Animals in Translation"--

"If I had my druthers humans would have evolved to be plant eaters, so we wouldn't have to kill other animals for food. But we didn't and I don't see the human race converting to vegetarianism anytime soon. I've tried to eat vegetarian myself, and I haven't been able to manage it physically. I get the same feeling you get with hypoglycemia; I get dizzy and light-headed and I can't think straight..." (p. 179)

"So until someone proves otherwise I'm operating from the hypothesis that at least some people are genetically built so that they have to hae meat to function. Even if that's not so, the fact that humans evolved as both plant and meat eaters means that the vast majority of human beings are going to continue to eat both. Humans are animals, too, and we do what our animal natures tell us to do.

That means we're going to continue to have feedlots and slaughterhouses, so the question is: what should a humane feedlot and slaughterhouse be like." (p. 180)

The air of regret in that passage appeals to me and makes me feel in synch with her. So--I wouldn't want to have her job, but I don't find her creepy for doing it. Actually--just the opposite. It's a nasty job figuring out how to kill more kindly...but really, somebody does have to do it (because the killing is definitely going to continue, as she notes).

As to the "wouldn't have lived otherwise" argument, it can be attacked, but it's not completely daft. Reasonable people will disagree, I think, about whether it makes any sense. I don't find it compelling, but some very good philosophers give it some credence.

s. wallerstein said...

Couldn't you ask someone with HBO to record it and then see it in DVD?

Jean Kazez said...

The weird thing is that everyone has DVRs these days, so they record onto a hard disk, and there's no portable DVD or video! Grr! Maybe I could go visit somebody. (What, leave my house?)

Melissa said...

Taylor states, "I find something disturbing, and even creepy, about what she does."

No doubt most vegetarians, myself included, find animal slaughter disturbing, yet that unfortunately isn't enough to stop others from eating meat or hunting for sport. Very few of us would be willing -- or able -- to do the work of Temple Grandin. I completely agree with Jean's thoughts on the matter.

Taylor, when you say Temple Grandin's work is creepy. Do you mean creepy as in, you yourself wouldn't want to be involved with animal slaughter, or creepy as in you're an abolitionist vegan? ;)

I'm actually interested in Temple Grandin's writings on autism, which is the main reason I'm springing for the HBO!

Jean, I would tape the program for you, however the little people in our house jammed the VHS recorder with toys & goodness knows what else, so it no longer works.

Wayne said...

You could also try www.netflix.com That requires a subscription, but if you already have one, in maybe about a month it'll probably be available for streaming.

Wayne said...

hmmmm Maybe try this instead:

Jean Kazez said...

Wow, That looks very illicit, but it might just work! (My attempt to nab some free HBO doesn't seem to be panning out.)

Taylor said...

I've just come across the following article, which may be of interest:
"Are Animals Autistic Savants?"

Melissa: By "creepy" I mean what your average teenager means by the word. (I was referring to what Grandin does, not to how she would come across in person.)

Chris R said...

What Grandin does is help animal agriculture kill more efficiently with less injuries to the animal carcass and the workers. Less suffering is always better than more, but it in no way moves us closer to animal rights. Designing more efficient slaughterhouses should not be praised by animal rights activists.
The changes to slaughterhouses allow companies to make more money and will occur regardless of Grandin.
She has made quite a career out of designing death camps for animals which is not a cause for celebration.

Jean Kazez said...

Chris--Did you cut and paste all that from Gary Francione's website? It sure sounds familiar. I was actually hoping for thoughtful discussion here, not recitation of chapter and verse.

Chris R said...

I am not in any way saying that Grandin should be crucified, just that there is absolutely no cause for celebration. I am guessing you disagree. I don't believe I made any controversial statements.

Jean Kazez said...

Perhaps those claims aren't controversial to you because you've heard them so many times in abolitionist circles. To the rest of the world, it's hugely controversial to dismiss basic reforms that reduce the suffering of millions of animals every year. I believe there's a lot of made up nonsense and illogic that goes into that dismissal. I've argued that in many previous posts, so I'll just leave it at that.

Chris R said...

Grandin says in her own words that she has "designed one of the world's most efficient killing machines."
I do not dismiss basic reforms, but I believe they come about for economic reasons and not altruistic reasons.
More efficiency means cheaper nonhuman animal products.
Mcdonalds pays Grandin because they can simultaneously kill more efficiently and get a PR boost out of it. She is featured on the Mcdonalds website.

The decisions about animal treatment are purely business and would happen regardless of Grandin.

She does not further the cause of nonhuman animals.

Jean Kazez said...

None of that really makes much sense.

Motives don't matter. When we consider whether reforms are valuable or not, the reasons why they're introduced are immaterial. They can be good whether or not the businesses accepting them do so for altruistic reasons. This is obvious, I think.

There is no empirical evidence that animals are being killed in greater numbers as a result of Temple Grandin's reforms. The idea that this is so appeals enormously to abolitionists, because it gives them a basis for opposing the reforms (which they really oppose on a priori philosophical grounds). But for the rest of us, we're going to have to see hard data before we believe it.

Even if I did believe it, I'd still support the reforms. In fact, I think it would be obscene not to. Animals are entitled to relief of their suffering, period. We must find other ways to reduce numbers killed, and not deliberately make animals suffer more as a strategy to win their eventual liberation. The whole notion of denying them pain relief is morally repugnant.

Seriously--extrapolate your opposition to Temple Grandin to some human context and you'll see how preposterous it is. Obviously we need to reduce the suffering of death row inmates, even if doing so makes the public more comfortable with the death penalty, and perpetuates it. Each individual inmate is entitled to that relief from suffering. Likewise, each individual animal is entitled to relief from suffering.

That's what Temple Grandin is accomplishing it--and she deserves credit for that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Jean makes any sense. TG's designs have not eliminated suffering at all. In fact, I would argue that the suffering is being increased b/c the public is starting to accept factory farming as having a "humane" approach. This is allowing the beef industry to continue with its cruel practices.

There is no real "relief" in suffering. You're still being confined in a crate, still living in feces, still being treated like you have no emotions. TG has not alleviated that reality one bit. Wake up Jean.

Jean Kazez said...

I'm wide awake thanks. It sounds like you've been to abolitionist training camp and you learned your lessons well. I think you're repeating dogmas that cannot be supported empirically.