How Horses Feel and Think: Understanding Behaviour, Emotions and Intelligence
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Central West Libraries. Cessnock City Council. Hawkesbury City Council Library Service. Hume Libraries. Inverell Shire Council. Ipswich Libraries. But the underlying fault is a lack of visual perception. I remember watching this monster movie when I was a kid, and they had this monster locked in this box in a lab. Cattle handlers have to learn two things from Grandin. They have to learn that a Styrofoam cup, for example, lying in an alleyway will stop cow traffic dead because it worries the cattle.
But first the handlers have to learn to see the cup. Physical displays of affection can make an autistic child uncomfortable, even when they come from family members or a beloved pet. I wanted to feel the nice social feelings of being held, but it was just too overwhelming. Grandin uses an awkward but powerful word to describe the perceptual fog that normal humans live in.
But one of the things Grandin worries about is the increasing tendency of humans to live utterly abstractified lives, cut off from tactile participation in the real, physical world. She laments the way schools have dropped classes like wood shop and metal shop and drafting—the kinds of classes that saved her when she was going to school and failing classes like algebra. Those changes directly affect autistic children.
But normal humans are experiencing a similar loss. We surround ourselves with television and computer games. We practically live in our offices. We inhabit a cocoon of associations and representations of the world around us—increasingly a world divorced from nature. The result, according to Grandin, is a pattern that might be called the radicalism of inexperience.
We lose the comparative frame that helps us balance our lives. Grandin has inspected hundreds of packing plants and feedlots and seen hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of hogs. She tells me about a problem that crept up on breeders trying to create extralean pigs. They slowly got more excitable. I call that bad becoming normal. That development pattern—bad becoming normal—is made possible by two things: human adaptability to shifting circumstances and cutting away a comparative frame of reference.
Without a standard to refer back to—happy, healthy pigs and chickens—breeding programs easily sacrifice the whole animal—its emotions and well-being—for the profitability of the end product. Economic pressure is one reason, but so is human nature—our tolerance of the erosion that Grandin calls bad becoming normal. Grandin is not a social critic, and bad becoming normal is not a moral concept.
But she is a deeply discerning student of human behavior because, as an autistic person, she has had to study how normal humans behave in order to fit in.
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Trying to look at normal humans through her eyes—and, in a very different way, through the eyes of animals—I saw a disturbing vision. What I saw was an enormously flexible, adaptable species trapped by its own adaptability. Abstractification may be in our character, but it does not become truly worrisome—the basis for bad becoming normal—until we cut ourselves off from nature and the animal creation around us. In modern America, animals are either industrialized—raised in huge concentrations and in confinement—or sentimentalized, treated as persons. Meanwhile, species in the wild are under ever-growing pressure.
One of the greatest risks humans face is living in an all-human environment.
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Driving through Fort Collins with Grandin, I found myself looking at a landscape that embodies a massive change in that direction. In the Rockies, there are the remnants of a wild world, and in the fields around Fort Collins itself, the patterns of an older, nonindustrialized agriculture. But to the south, reaching up from Denver, there lay an utterly abstractified landscape, humans living in suburbs and exurbs, surrounded only by themselves, lost in television and big-box retail and big-box religion.
Grandin reminds us, as almost no one else has been able to do, that humans are not human without animals. We do not have the ability to see what animals see, to notice what they notice, but we once had a vastly greater ability to see animals themselves because we lived in working partnerships with them. We need a coevolving present as well. We need their eyes upon us, asking us, if only implicitly, who we are. By Verlyn Klinkenborg Sunday, May 1, You might also like. Can Your Dog Cut a Rug?
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