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Meeting one of my veterinary heroes: Dr Temple Grandin

12 Nov 2019 | James Russell

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BVA Junior Vice President, James Russell talks about Dr Temple Grandin, who is delivering this year’s Wooldridge Lecture at BVA Congress, and where her work and approach have inspired him.

t is a rare event to be asked to go to dinner with somebody who was played by Claire Danes in a 2010 box office hit film.

Surely it must be even more rare for that person to also have appeared on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2010. That puts her on the same list as Bill Clinton, Serena Williams, Ben Stiller, and the man credited with kicking off reconciliation efforts in his home country – Didier Drogba.

The fact that you recognise the work of this individual as being of paramount importance to many of the best aspects of cattle welfare makes the prospect of sitting with Temple Grandin for dinner this evening, exciting and daunting in equal measure.

Like many farm animal practitioners, I was introduced to Temple’s work through her writing on ‘humane livestock handling’, something which I believe is seen in practice in a lot of the Cow Signals work we study today. Reading these works, I recognised a calm, compassionate individual, with a passionate zeal to make the lives of farmed species better. The clarity and simplicity which she can bring to this complex subject is testament to the intuitive nature by which she recognises good animal welfare.

An area where Temple has spoken out too is in the arena of welfare at slaughter. In this field she has bravely approached non-stun slaughter from the direction of minimising the welfare harms it causes. This comes from her recognition that where there is demand for meat slaughtered in this way, it is beholden on all of us involved in meat production to improve welfare within whatever constraints we are held by.

Temple Grandin at the London Vet Show

Anticipating her Woolridge Memorial Lecture at London Vet Show on Thursday 14 November, I can’t help but speculate whether when we sit down together tonight we will discuss her topic of ‘Improving stockmanship and welfare’, or whether it will be an opportunity to enjoy a broader conversation with the only person of this level of influence with whom I am ever likely to share a meal. That is of course unless Sachin Tendulkar phones about that nets session I offered him...

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