Animals in Translation -- A premature book review

Animal Welfare Issues.
User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Animals in Translation -- A premature book review

Post by abcrystcats » December 30th, 2005, 11:02 pm

I am halfway through this excellent book by Temple Grandin, and I can't resist giving my opinion NOW.

This is fantastic. I'm sorry I stubbornly waited until it was out in paperback to get it.

This is far, far better than her first book, "Thinking in Pictures." "Thinking in Pictures" seemed to be a sort of self-congratulatory explanation of why Grandin's autism gave her unique gifts when analyzing the animal world. I sort of agreed with her POV, and sort of didn't. I was biassed by the fact that I'm a fairly visual thinker, myself, and don't see her abilities in understanding animal behavior as anything particularly strange.

I also have an autistic nephew, and although I've seen that he relates to the world in an unusual way and has special gifts for perceiving emotions, I haven't seen him gravitate towards animals any more or any less than other children. In fact, I've been disappointed at his occasional indifference to them.

"Thinking in Pictures" left a lot of questions unanswered for me. I wanted to know more about why Grandin's a meat eater. I wanted to know more about how she saw animals -- their lives, feelings, perceptions of us and of each other. I wanted to know if she took a mechanistic approach to animal behavior. She seems suspiciously mechanistic to me at times, and I've had my doubts.

Well. "Animals in Translation" is answering all or most of my questions and educating me in ways that I badly needed, although I didn't know it.

Don't take the first half of the first chapter too seriously. It's delightful reading. It's conversational and funny and true, but it's the leaping-off point for the rest of the book, not a thesis. If I had stopped reading at her "animals are autistic savants" statement, I would have put the book down forever.

The meat of the book is about a lot of things. It's about how the animal brain works, how the human brain works, why humans are like animals and why animals are an awful lot like human beings. She acknowledges that animals can think, and that they can feel emotions that are very similar to ours, and in many cases, a LOT like ours. It's about autism as well, but unlike the mainstream reviewers of this book, I haven't learned as much about autism as I have about regular people and about cats and dogs and birds and dolphins and cows and squirrels.

Grandin uses EVERYTHING. She uses anecdotes, she uses science, she uses proofs, she uses education. She and her cowriter are FABULOUS communicators! This is written in a simple, conversational style. You won't be able to stop reading once you've started, but I guarantee the book will change your perception of animals forever --- maybe in ways you won't like. It's not a feel-good book. I'm in the chapter right now about animal aggression and I just learned something about how killer whales eat penguins *for fun* that I'd rather not know.

What I DO know is that I'm only halfway through this book and Ive already learned more about all the living beings on this planet than I ever knew before.

I've always been grateful that there are Temple Grandins, working within the system to eradicate animal cruelty and the ignorance that causes it. I had no idea that she and her kind had been so successful in correcting the errors of the meat industry, and I had no idea how many advances have recently been made in understanding how the animal mind works.

READ THIS BOOK!

I only put it down momentarily to write this review. I'm going back now.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

I Take It Back

Post by abcrystcats » December 31st, 2005, 3:50 pm

it's the leaping-off point for the rest of the book, not a thesis. If I had stopped reading at her "animals are autistic savants" statement, I would have put the book down forever.
Uh, I'm nearly at the end of the book now, and I have to say that the "animals are autistic savants" statement IS her thesis, and it's a very good one.

Wait till you see how she leads you there. And now I agree.

Boy, sometimes I think I'm really stupid.

This is an amazing book -- one of the best and most convincing I've read about animal behavior.

READ THIS BOOK!

User avatar
whimsicaldeb
Posts: 882
Joined: November 3rd, 2004, 4:53 pm
Location: Northern California, USA
Contact:

Post by whimsicaldeb » January 7th, 2006, 2:10 pm

READ THIS BOOK!

Deal.

I just finished ready a rather extended excerpt from this book and it's like you said:

This is written in a simple, conversational style. You won't be able to stop reading once you've started...

http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/Technol ... 279&page=1


After reading the excerpt, I also want to get this book and continue reading.

I was biassed by the fact that I'm a fairly visual thinker, myself, and don't see her abilities in understanding animal behavior as anything particularly strange.

Ditto ... plus, working with wildlife rehab'ers I've found that for those of us working in the field, her view is our daily 'normal' view; but we also know we are the minority. So I understand a lot of her frustrations, and the limitations she has to work around - they're ours as well.

What she’s writing about and the way she/they write …are all pluses, but I also want to get this book, because unlike you, I'm not familiar with autism and I want to learn more. I think this book will help me do that, and in a good way as well.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » January 8th, 2006, 12:17 am

Thanks, whimsicaldeb. I figured you read this book already!

The first chapter turned me off a bit. It reminded me too much of "Thinking in Pictures" -- all about HER. The book retains the friendly, personal style, but after the first chapter, she starts telling you a LOT about the animal mind. I think it's just incredibly well-researched, and it's rare to find a "soft" book about animals with so little whimsy and so much TRUTH. This is great stuff.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that her work has done SO much for animal welfare in the meat industry. Her ideas are spreading into the fast food sector. She's changed federal monitoring procedures for meat processing plants. At some point in the book she said that she was worried about who would succeed her -- who's going to keep her ideas about animal welfare going after she dies? That's a justifiable concern. She explains, very specifically, why the processes she's designed work for animals and why they simply don't make sense to many intelligent and well-meaning human beings.

Well, I will be waiting to read your opinion on the website once you've read it, Deb. I'm dying to know what you'll think about this book!

User avatar
whimsicaldeb
Posts: 882
Joined: November 3rd, 2004, 4:53 pm
Location: Northern California, USA
Contact:

Post by whimsicaldeb » February 19th, 2006, 12:51 pm

This week I finally got this book. I had to wait for my budget to catch up with my wish list. :lol:

I've just begun reading it, and I can't believe how enthralled I am with what she has to say!

I don't agree with everything ... specifically, that the conclusions she draws on certain things could have other answers and it's unclear whether she explored them all and just didn't include the results due to space consideration, or if she overlooked them completely because they didn't' occur to her. But those are only small things, none overshadow the quality of the information in this book.

I'll examples of my favorite parts, and some questioned ones later, after I finish the book. Right now, I just wanted to post and let you know I had not forgotten.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » February 21st, 2006, 6:16 pm

OK, thanks!

I'll be very interested in hearing what parts you thought were missing, and so on.

Temple Grandin is by no means the last word on this.

I was SO appreciative for the balanced perspective on animal behavior and the research and proofs she supplied.

I get kind of sick of the popular idealization of animals. I just put myself through another Jeffrey Mousaieff Masson book. Not that he's completely worthless or anything, but his books on animals are SO full of praise for animal behavior that they usually make me want to throw up.

I haven't quite decided if I want to review book that here, or not. I should probably go through it again so I can weigh the good with the bad. You'd think I'd like Masson. He has a background in Sanskrit studies and psychoanalysis on top of his animal studies. But I have yet to read a book of his that doesn't have me snorting derisively at some point or another.

User avatar
stilltrucking
Posts: 19773
Joined: October 24th, 2004, 12:29 pm
Location: Oz or somepace like Kansas

Post by stilltrucking » February 22nd, 2006, 9:37 pm

...
Last edited by stilltrucking on January 26th, 2007, 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » February 23rd, 2006, 1:48 am

stilltrucking,

I am upset.


Do the words spay and neuter mean anything to you?

You are talking about two kittens surviving a litter??? WTF???

Is this YOUR cat?

What's going on?

God forgive me for feeding stray cats before I knew what a serious undertaking it was. Cats don't just need food, they need shelter and medical care and (in this ugly world) birth control. Food, without the other elements means some serious SUFFERING and death.

I prefer a world without suffering, if at all possible. It's not possible, but we can try.

User avatar
stilltrucking
Posts: 19773
Joined: October 24th, 2004, 12:29 pm
Location: Oz or somepace like Kansas

Post by stilltrucking » February 23rd, 2006, 9:40 am

...
Last edited by stilltrucking on January 26th, 2007, 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » February 24th, 2006, 2:41 am

Yeah right.

I get it.

Stilltrucking, cats do OK, on their own, with little or no human interference. If you are living in any kind of sub-urban area, then LEAVE THEM ALONE. Okay? Or else make a total commitment to one or two cats. That means shots, neuter or spay and the whole nine yards.

If you want to leave them wild, then fine. Don't offer food! Let them catch what they need. They will self-limit litters somewhat, and that will help.

If you live in farm territory, the rules are different and much more relaxed.

Domestic cats aren't native to the United States, or even to this continent, but if left wild, they can deal with stuff.

Humans are confusing the situation. We can't make up our minds if cats are wild or domestic. The answer is that they can be either, but not both together.

Decide. Commit.

I had trouble doing that too, but you've got to.

Just like humans, you've got to know where and why your responsibility begins and ends.

Don't straddle the middle. With cats, most of the suffering for them lies in that path.

Either let them go, or shelter them. You will be doing a great service, either way.

User avatar
stilltrucking
Posts: 19773
Joined: October 24th, 2004, 12:29 pm
Location: Oz or somepace like Kansas

Post by stilltrucking » February 24th, 2006, 10:34 am

...
Last edited by stilltrucking on January 26th, 2007, 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » February 25th, 2006, 12:25 am

You've got an excellent point, stilltrucking,and if more food sources didn't mean a cat population explosion, causing still more suffering of more innocent creatures, I'd be all for it.

The TNR people not only regularly feed, they also spay, neuter and vaccinate.

Same thing happened to me. I fed the ferals in my neighborhood regularly. When I moved, the lady across the street thought the cats were mine, and reported that one had given birth under her trailer. So I went to get the mom and babies out. The were quite tame and easy to catch. Even mom. I gave them to animal control and they killed them all . I was heartbroken. They even killed the cute little adolescent guy I loved so much. I wanted to save his ass from a life on the streets. Instead they sent him to the gas chamber.

I thought I was helping them. Turned out I was hurting them by encouraging them to breed and by helping them to think people were safe and a good food source.

It was one of the things that later got me into cat rescue.

Poor things. There's no good simple solution for helping them live. The only way is to take full responsibility.

It makes me sick that we brought these animals here, and now we just throw them out on the street when we get tired of them.

Sorry for the "woofing." It' s not you, I just get damn mad.

My effing upstairs neighbors at my old condo in CA had a male cat. They just let him ROAM the streets, unfixed. I'd already seen how one other male cat in the complex had died from living that kind of life. I kept telling them to GET HIM FIXED. They wouldn't listen to me. I supposed they hoped he would get lost or die before he stopped amusing them, stinkers.

So you know what I did? One day I accidentally-on-purpose assumed this collarless roaming cat was a STRAY. And I got him fixed on my OWN hook, and then released him a few days later, when he was all better. Boy, were they PISSED at me!

But I would do it again in heartbeat.

And, sure enough, when they moved, they didn't want to take the cat with them. He was just a TOY to them.

Fortunately, I had a good hearted bachelor neighbor who also had a cat, and his cat got along with the little wandering semi-owned waif. So when he moved to a house, he adopted the little guy himself.

Everything worked out GREAT for the cat. He was a much more adoptable pet once the neuter operation had been done, and those stinkers above me probably just got ANOTHER tinybabykitten to PLAY with and then fuck over.

Sometimes I HATE people. I hate 'em.

People who treat animals like used kleenexes should burn in hell. For all eternity.

I realize that you have good intentions, and I respect that and think it's great. I'm only trying to show you how sometimes these intentions can only lead to more suffering. The SINGLE best thing you can do for any unowned cat is to GET IT FIXED. The second best thing you can do is GET IT VACCINATED. The third best thing you can do is give it a safe, warm place to sleep. Food is cheap and easy to give out, but I put that FOURTH, because a strong and able-bodied cat can forage for itself just as well as any fox or coyote or squirrel or raccoon.

Hey, we don't feed the wild animals and they do just fine.

Cats do suffer more, mainly because they're not native to here and because most of them have evolved through generations to be PETS not hunters. But the thing that REALLY cuts into their survival ability is BREEDING and MATING BEHAVIOR. Take that away, and even a totally feral cat can live for YEARS, quite nicelym with no human assistance at all.

Hope you see my point about the feeding. It's not that I'm totally against it. I did it. I understand that it comes from a full heart and a sincere desire to help, but it's not what the cats REALLY need.

User avatar
whimsicaldeb
Posts: 882
Joined: November 3rd, 2004, 4:53 pm
Location: Northern California, USA
Contact:

Post by whimsicaldeb » March 16th, 2006, 10:53 pm

I finished it and I loved it! I will never look at cows the same way again. I was blown away when I read how much she - personally (!!!) - had done to help the meat industry make their actions towards the animals more humane. And how McDonald's (!!!) had helped by only buying their meat from those processing plants using her 5 key measure policy - which is brilliant! Simple, clean, clear ... and most of all, humane.

Her info on birds, yes ... and wildlife, yes. How wildlife is always wild; don't make good pets, yes. How over breeding is causing problems in dogs (cats as well), yes. That I knew.

How animals are autistic .. yes. We've only just begun to understand ... I agree with her that many of the so-called experts act as if they already know it all. (drives me crazy too)

But it's what I learned from this book that makes it special ...
I learned about autism, I learned about cows, I learned about how much work she’d done as an animal scientist. I learned she’d meet the same “resistance” towards common knowledge that animals think & feel as I had. I learned about raping chickens from over breeding of certain traits. I learned about memory, in human as well as animal brains.

The way she sees things, helped me learned more about myself and the world around me. At times, I felt I must also be autistic … and yet even as I thought that I knew with certainty that I’m also one of those who depending upon how close minded I can be, would overlook and not see the person in the gorilla suit.

I did wonder, on occasion at some of her conclusions: example with the coyote that go on killing sprees – she felt it was due to “Wild coyotes have probably lost the knowledge that you shouldn’t waste food or energy.” While that is one possible explanation – I don’t think it’s not the only one, or necessarily the correct one. Additional information is needed to answer the why of this, and their other contributions that are possibilities such: Does stress from human encroachment into their territory contribute part of this trigger? How about pollution in the water supply etc (i.e: drugs and chemicals from paint and other waste that get passing into the water supplies) are they, could they be contributing? This is what I meant by sometimes she gives too simple of answer… but not necessarily a wrong one.

Dr. Nancy (our Vet at Lindsay) hasn’t read Temple’s book yet, and she’s asked to borrow next (… and I two others after her that want to borrow and read this book as well.) So, I’ve made a note in the book at certain areas such as that one … and I’ll asked her to comment to me on what she thinks. She has more experience than I do with wildlife – it will be interesting to hear her responses.

One of the men I work with has loaned me Oliver Sacks’ book “An Anthropologist On Mars” where he (Sacks’) had interviewed Temple for this book. I haven’t finished read it in whole yet (Sack tends to go off in tangents – interesting tangents, but tangents none the less). But it’s as fascinating, reading about how he relating to Temple as he’s interviewing her, as it was reading Temple’s book as she describes the various animals and people she related with for her book! It’s like having another view of the same thing(s). Or some of the same things, I should say.

We (myself, humanity, animals) owe her a debt of gratitude, and I think that only someone like Temple could have accomplished what has been so far regarding the humane treatment – a “Normal” person could not have done this. I don’t know who will take her place, but I hope someone as special will. What did she say … (I’m not sure the exact statement) … We created these animals (livestock) for our food, and because we have, it’s our responsibility to treat them well.

I whole-heartedly agree.

User avatar
abcrystcats
Posts: 619
Joined: August 20th, 2004, 9:37 pm

Post by abcrystcats » March 18th, 2006, 1:40 am

was blown away when I read how much she - personally (!!!) - had done to help the meat industry make their actions towards the animals more humane. And how McDonald's (!!!) had helped by only buying their meat from those processing plants using her 5 key measure policy - which is brilliant! Simple, clean, clear ... and most of all, humane.
Do I sense some healthy skepticism here? I guess I have a tendency to take these comments at face value. Not so hot of me, considering my reaction to her first book (Thinking in Pictures) was that she was blowing her own horn a lot of the time. I hope she's right. I want to believe her. She is certainly, hands-down, the most influential animal behaviorist around today. I hope she isn't just creating a soothing, palliative smoke screen for the meat industry.

If she is absolutely on track -- not exagerrating -- then we ought to be really alarmed that's she's getting older and needs someone to follow in her footsteps and continue her good work.

As far as her five key measures -- she just cut through all the liberal (pardon the label) BS and faction-fighting and boiled it down to its simplest and most practical applications. How DO you tell the animals are distressed? They bellow and moo. They resist and show fear. Don't obsess about stuff that the cows don't even worry about, just because it looks bad to YOU.

I agree that the thing about this book that made it SO good was the amount of KNOWLEDGE she threw out there. This was FAR from being just another cute book of animal anecdotes. Animals aren't wonderful -- they're a LOT like us in their failings as well as in their virtues. The stuff about whales dissecting penguins (yech!) and the coyote killing sprees helped me get a balanced perspective.

Hey, they (the cats) were having a little play session when I got home. I sat down in the middle of it and watched. Marz pounced on Calypso when she wasn't prepared. He didn't give her any warning, and she wasn't actively playing at the time. It was a cat faux pas. She cried in pain and surprise and he chased her into the bathroom. I went in there to break it up, but Marz seemed glad of the interruption and didn't pursue her again. A minute later I saw him sniffing the spot where she'd been when he pounced on her. Poor Marz ... he was a bottle baby and raised in strange circumstances. He never learned cat etiquette completely. When he's confused about a negative reaction to something, that's one of the things he's done before -- sniff.

Don't know why I brought that up, except that the coyote killing sprees reminded me that animals don't always behave the way we EXPECT them to behave and as you said, there may be many different reasons for it. There are plenty of possible explanations. Coyotes don't just kill for food. It may be an expression of pack solidarity. And if there are many stressors present -- such as human encroachment -- that may prompt them to more ritualistic acts of killing to strengthen the communal bonds.

As you said -- all kinds of reasons for the coyote killings.

Anyway, it was a GOOD book -- really, one of the best I've read about animal behavior in a long time. Even though I don't fully agree with her hypothesis, I learned a lot getting there.

Here's a weird thing: Have you ever whistled at a coyote? I mean, just the same way you would whistle for a dog to come to you? I have, and they behave in a very similar way. They stop what they're doing -- the ears prick up -- they usually look straight toward the origin of the sound. Every so often, one of them has taken a step or two towards me before they realized what they were doing and backed off. Now WHY would this HAPPEN? It's an unfamiliar, high-pitched sound. You'd think an animal with a natural sense of self-preservation would run or hit the dirt. Coyotes respond with curiosity and even attraction. No use saying they think it's a bird. There's a BIG difference between a familiar bird whistle (something they are accustomed to hearing) and a human whistle.

Well, glad you read it, and I'll be interested in hearing what your veterinarian has to say about it. Veterinarians often seem to me to be strangely REMOVED from animals as beings -- souls. I was once talking to a vet about a cat I had who was dying of a terminal illness. I was mostly concerned with not causing the cat unnecessary pain, but he was talking about how long I could "enjoy" my cat's presence. I felt like we were on two different planets.

Let me know what you vet thinks.

User avatar
whimsicaldeb
Posts: 882
Joined: November 3rd, 2004, 4:53 pm
Location: Northern California, USA
Contact:

Post by whimsicaldeb » March 21st, 2006, 6:03 pm

Hi Cats ...

I've actually have more than a couple of minutes and can finally take the time to reply to a few things. :D
My effing upstairs neighbors at my old condo in CA had a male cat. They just let him ROAM the streets, unfixed. I'd already seen how one other male cat in the complex had died from living that kind of life. I kept telling them to GET HIM FIXED. They wouldn't listen to me. I supposed they hoped he would get lost or die before he stopped amusing them, stinkers.

So you know what I did? One day I accidentally-on-purpose assumed this collarless roaming cat was a STRAY. And I got him fixed on my OWN hook, and then released him a few days later, when he was all better. Boy, were they PISSED at me!

But I would do it again in heartbeat.
Ditto! That's what we did as well, only it was a female. In fact my parents used to do this as well, and that's where I learned it ... but I lied when I was asked: ... did you do that? ~ oh no, not moi! ~ :lol: (Bad Debby - Bad!) And I'd also do it again (lies and all) in a heartbeat.

Well, glad you read it, and I'll be interested in hearing what your veterinarian has to say about it. Veterinarians often seem to me to be strangely REMOVED from animals as beings -- souls. I was once talking to a vet about a cat I had who was dying of a terminal illness. I was mostly concerned with not causing the cat unnecessary pain, but he was talking about how long I could "enjoy" my cat's presence. I felt like we were on two different planets.

Let me know what you vet thinks.
Will do ... I just gave Dr. Nancy the book today. As it happens, I guess NPR was playing an interview with her on the radio this morning (I didn't catch it myself) ... and in listening to her, it gave Dr. Nancy a 'healthy skepticism' about how scientific Temple's data is, thus some of her conclusions. Since I felt Temple had backed up scientific data rather well, I can’t wait to hear Dr. Nancy’s take on the book myself. I did ask her to pay special attention to the information about coyotes’s in the book as Dr. Nancy has many years of experience with coyotes.

I forgot to ask her about how they responded when you whistled ... hopefully, I won't forget this next time.

Taking care to not cause, and to relieve, unnecessary suffering and pain is 60% of what rehabers do. When Dr. Nancy has to put an animal down, it’s always done with respect. She, and the other supervisors, always tells them “I’m sorry.”

And the decisions to do this are never made lightly … like today, a red fox squirrel that came in 3 days ago, it was dog caught - caught by a 6 month old lab puppy, had to be put down because it wasn’t responding to treatment – wasn’t eating and most of all wasn’t acting like a normal wild squirrel. I've been working there for 4 years now, and for the most part, it’s always a group decision … and not made lightly – but at the core of every decision to put any animal down is A) to relieve unnecessary suffering and pain and B) will this animal be able to have live a normal life.

A healthy adult fox squirrel is not going to caught by a puppy, or rarely even by a healthy adult dog for that matter. So there was something wrong even before he was caught by that puppy … and no internal injuries, superficial outer injures and consistent meds for those – but still no improvement in actions, not eating … meant that there was probably something very seriously wrong inside, probably parasitical. He had 3 days, for medication, food, rest. And yet …

Sometimes, it doesn’t work.

In the wild – he would have died a slow lingering death of starvation. And all that would entail. Ants crawling on him before he even passes. Magots in his open outer wounds. Other animals

If this had been someone’s pet cat or dog, it’s the type of illness that would cost thousands of dollars to test – and even it would still be a remote chance of actually discovering ‘what’ (which actual type, etc) it was … all the while trying different medicines, and guessing. And I've found that some "pet" vets don't like to put animals down (are uncomfortable with it).

But this little guy (fox squirrel) was put down, quickly and gently. With respect and sorrow from each of us in the room. Yet every one of us agreed it was for the best.

He presence was there, and then gone. But it was noted by each one us in that room today, in our own ways.

Do animals have a soul. Did this little guy … I say yes. And I also say, his presence was not diminished because he died. Instead, it was expanded, because it was set free.

But, come to think of it, I’ve never talked about that with Dr. Nancy … always hesitiate to do so, didn't want to sound ... (ummm…) stupid (I guess). I think I will. I think this book will open the way for that type of conversation.

I'll keep you updated.

Post Reply

Return to “Cathouse”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest