Plenary: Decoding Animal Behavior & Translating Understanding to Animal Welfare

Dr. Temple Grandin, Professor
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

Animal welfare and autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will share her insights into animal behavior which have helped to inform and improve the state of animal welfare. As a person with autism, Dr. Grandin has a particular way of seeing the world. She says,“I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures.” Dr. Grandin’s blend of innate thinking abilities and her sheer tenacity have led her to many successes and innovations in the field of animal science. Presently, half the cattle in the US and Canada are handled with equipment she has designed.

Dr. Grandin’s way of thinking is a tremendous asset in her work of designing animal handling facilities by bringing a practical approach to understanding the animal mind. “Fear is the main emotion in autism and it is also the main emotion in prey animals such as horses and cattle,” she says. Temple’s mind and affinity for animals allows a window into the animal mind and the ability to predict and alter animals’ subsequent behavior. She notices details that allow her to be sensitive to the animal’s point of view. Temple encourages us to not only understand the way animals think, but to take a leap of imagination and to think the way they do, too. Temple’s designs for animal handling have been tremendously effective using this methodology.

Temple helps us think more about how animals perceive the situations we put them in, improving animal welfare in a world where animal welfare demands improvement.


Dr. Temple Grandin has written books and provided consultation on the humane treatment of animals. Her work has focused on the design of livestock handling facilities. The animal handling guidelines that she wrote for the American Meat Institute are being used to objectively audit animal handling throughout the food system. She has won prestigious industry awards and was also honored in Time Magazine’s 2010, “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 2012, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. She resides in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she is a Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University. Dr. Temple Grandin is also a leading autism advocate, and lectures extensively on her experiences with autism.

Dr. Grandin’s book, Animals in Translation was a New York Times best seller and her book Livestock Handling and Transport, now has a third edition which was published in 2007. Other popular books authored by Dr. Grandin are Thinking in Pictures, Animals Make us Human, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain.