Feb 6, 2010


Jim Sinclair who has autism, helped organize Autism Network International. He has written some insightful and poetic essays regarding his autism, and his experiences living in a world in which he is "different". The ANI was founded not for parents or family, but rather for the people with autism. Their annual retreat attempts to provide a space in which they can interact with each other without the pressures of a world trying to find a "cure" for their differences. Sinclair is also for animal rights. He wrote the following poignant piece in response to Temple Grandin, who works for the meat industry by providing more efficient methods of animal slaughter. If you love something, you don’t kill it. I didn’t need to spend time in a squeeze box to learn that. Love is not killing. If you know what another being feels--not just how you feel when you touch it--then you know that living things want to remain alive. It doesn’t matter if they’re not afraid of death before they know what’s going to happen to them. In the moment when the killing happens, they know, and they want to stay alive. I have seen this, and I have felt death happen. I haven’t seen as much of death as someone who is obsessively drawn to slaughter factories, but I’ve seen enough to know. Life does not consent to be killed. I don’t need a Ph.D. in animal science to recognize that. Dying as a natural process is not the same as killing a healthy living creature. I have witnessed sudden death from injury, and gradual death from aging or disease. They’re not the same. (I have not witnessed deliberately inflicted death, because I will not stand by and allow killing to happen in my presence.) It’s irrelevant if a middle-aged scientist can say that she doesn’t fear death, that she understands it as a natural part of life. Almost all the beings whose lives she helps end are immature or just barely mature. Almost none of them are close to natural death. They’re not ready to die. If someone were to shoot or stab or electrocute the middle-aged scientist today, she might find that she’s not ready to die either. If you understand life, you know that it wants to continue. If you feel life throbbing under your touch, you know it’s desecration to set your hand to stop that living pulse. If you love something, you don’t kill it. There’s a special technique involved in tying a hangman’s noose so the victim is killed instantly by a broken neck, rather than slowly by strangulation. I suppose it’s part of a hangman’s professional expertise to learn to tie this knot properly. That expertise doesn’t make the hangman a caring or compassionate person. The hangman’s knot, the guillotine, the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the lethal injection were all designed to make deliberately inflicted death less painful to the victim. But I’ve never heard the inventors or the users of these technologies hailed as great humanitarians. I’ve never heard them praised for their great empathy toward the lives they’ve ended. Certainly it takes some ingenuity to invent new equipment. I’m a pretty smart person, but my expertise with knots is limited to being able to tie my shoes, to make a slip knot and a square knot. I tie these knots the way others taught me to tie them; I’ve never invented a new kind of knot by myself. If I were to try to design a knot that could quickly and painlessly kill someone, I’d never be able to figure it out. Whoever invented that knot had a type of mechanical creativity and skill that I don’t have. But if I did have it, I’d use it for other purposes. I wouldn’t need to invent a way to kill with a knot, because I would never be willing to participate in any way in killing a bound and defenseless person. Skill and ingenuity are not the same as empathy and caring. And love is not the same thing as killing. If you love something, you don’t kill it. It’s as simple as that.
Grandin claims to know what animals want... I dare say they want want their lives: Art, mental health and slaughterhouses - I see in pictures too.


可憐 said...
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Alexandra Jones said...

Hi Bea, thank you for posting this! I had never heard of Jim Sinclair, but this is a powerful and beautifully written essay, and it is so important to hear from people with autism who disagree with the cult surrounding Temple Grandin. Though not autistic myself, I question how anyone can claim that they have some deeper, more profound understanding of animals simply because they are autistic. It seems illogical to me to assume that the two things are connected, and it bothers me that so few people seem willing or able to question it. But even that Grandin is right and that her autism really does give her a greater insight into how non-human animals think and feel, I cannot fathom using that special knowledge to kill them. It seems incredibly perverse, and for AR groups to then hold her up as a compassionate "hero" is just bizarre. Sinclair is so right to point out that we do not heap such praises on the designers of the guillotine, noose and electric chair. A very good analogy indeed.

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Alexandra - I thought Sinclair's answer was quite fitting... He's written some
other interesting essays on autism - One of my favorites is "Don't Mourn for Us" --- http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html

He does have and uses great insight, which I believe makes him aware of the imperative of animal "rights". They say someone with autism hasn't the capacity to feel empathy --- Yet to me, he understands compassion more than most "normal" people.

But Grandin? I'm not so sure... There are many, artists in particular, who see the world "in pictures" --- Who have a very deep connection to everything around them - And I think they know much better what an animal wants: The freedom to live their lives. Grandin misses that totally... I don't think she's "gifted", I think she's delusional. Grandin's "Stairway to Heaven":

But I agree totally --- That a group that's supposed to represent the best in animal interests gave her an "award" is absolutely bizarre!!! And sadly, it's very telling of our culture's moral dissonance regarding animal "others". :(

Glad you liked the post! Great to see a friendly face! ;)

Marc Bekoff said...

Thanks Jim - I wrote an essay along these lines for Psychology Today

Going to slaughter: Should animals hope to meet Temple Grandin?


Anonymous said...

I haven't read much of what she has to say, but is it possible that she doesn't like the idea of killing the animals, she just thinks atleast if animals are to be killed its better for it to be less painful and scary for them?

Susan C. said...

kveggie, I have read much of what she has to say, and you are exactly right. Her purpose is to decrease the amount of stress the animals feel. Her slaughterhouse designs are both less stressful for the victims and more profitable (and safer) for the industry that exploits them.

At the end of one of her books, she tells of a moment of reflection, in which she confronts what she has just done. Her favorite animal in the world is the cow, and she has just assisted in their mass murder.

Her rationalization is that they will be killed no matter what, and she wants for them to suffer less. That is what animal welfare is all about, and it is difficult to argue with it (IMO).

But Jim's writing shows how ghastly that stance actually is. We are conditioned to think that such casual killing is inevitable and thereby excusable. Once we break from that mindset, we recognize the truth, and it is chilling.

Bea Elliott said...

Thank you Dr. Bekoff that's a fabulous essay that addresses all fallacies of kind killing and "humane" slaughter.

I'm honored by your visit and appreciate all the work you do to help our animal friends. I'm hoping the more we learn about their true nature and ours - The quicker we can get on to coexisting harmoniously.

Bea Elliott said...

Hi kveggie - I think if Ms. Grandin truly did not like killing animals she wouldn't be inventing systems that do just that. If Grandin does want to "minimize" the struggle that cows and pigs go through at slaughterhouses, it's because having a smooth running operation makes more money for the industries she works for. I'm sure that less stressed animals do make more profit in the end. But I don't think it's the animals wellbeing that is her primary concern. It is merely coincidental that calm animals make better meat.

And what this notion does is encourage people to continue on without much concern. It removes critical questions without real answers. No matter how painless or peaceful the killing is... Is any of it justified? Of course not! But lots of people skip that point because Ms. Grandin's "expertise" allows them to do so. She's no champion for our animal friends - I assure you of that.

Thanks for the visit and your input.

Bea Elliott said...

Hello Susan C. - And thanks for addressing those points about Grandin better than I! In many ways with that added image of her knowing what she did (and does) to her "favorite" animal... Makes one wonder what she would do to those she doesn't particularly care for!

I'm with you all the way on breaking that mindset of acceptable murder! Appreciate your dropping by with your well reasoned thoughts. ;)