A Surprising Slaughterhouse Expert: Temple Grandin

The animal expert says it's time to implement technology and third-party audits to regulate abuse in slaughterhouses.

Animal expert Temple Grandin is helping the meat industry to achieve more humane practices. (jervetson/Creative Commons)
Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

If you want to see farming from the eyes of an animal, you talk to Temple Grandin. The Colorado State University professor, who is also known for bringing awareness to autism, is a lauded animal rights expert and activist; she's even crawled into chutes meant for cattle to understand what it's like to be an animal raised for food. Now she'll take her role as a meat industry consultant to the next level, helping the industry attain more humane practices in slaughterhouses.

Food Safety News reports that Grandin is partnering with the North American Meat Association (NAMA) to implement remote video auditing on farms. Thus far, video footage of factory farms has been primarily the work of whistleblower activists, who attain jobs in slaughterhouses for the purposes of documenting abuse. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing have all released videos of deplorable treatment of animals, from inhumane slaughter techniques to outright abuse of animals, such as kicking, stomping on, or throwing animals.

In response, Big Ag has tried to silence whistleblowers. Iowa—the state with the highest concentration of factory farms in the country—proposed a bill that would fine undercover activists and sentence them to time in prison for gaining employment in slaughterhouses for the sake of documentation. 

At the time of the bill's proposal, Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association, told the Huffington Post, "Clearly the industry feels that it has something to hide or it wouldn't be going to these extremes and absurd lengths."

Anyone who's seen the stealth videos can attest to Miller's remarks, but Grandin and NAMA hope that undercover videos won't be necessary once new video auditing is underway. Recordings will keep an eye on animal handlers—already an incentive to behave more humanely—and will also be used as training tools to teach handlers more humane practices.

Meatpoultry.com reports that the collaboration between Grandin and NAMA is in response to the recent revelation that Central Valley Meat Company—which supplied the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with approximately 21 million pounds of beef in 2011—was rife with animal abuse incidents. The abuse was captured by undercover activists from Compassion Over Killing.

"The recent undercover video made it very clear that more monitoring of the condition of the animals upon arrival at the plant is necessary," Grandin told meatpoultry.com.

Do you think NAMA's work will be effective in creating more humane treatment of animals? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.

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