Renowned animal activist Temple Grandin gives tips at the Mother Earth News Fair

Temple Grandin spoke to an audience of hundreds at the Mother Earth News Fair this morning, giving a seminar on livestock handling.

Grandin said effective animal handling can save people from accidents and life-threatening situations with livestock.

“Understanding the behavioral indicators of fear will help you stay safe,” Grandin said. “The animal will warn you before getting agitated.”

Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, is an expert in animal science and was recently the inspiration for a biographical movie of her life, “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes.

Because of her autism, Grandin is a visual thinker. Thus, she says, she can get into an animal’s psychology, helping her better understand the best way to provide care.

“Animals going into the slaughter plant are afraid of little things people do not notice,” Grandin said. “But I think completely in pictures. When I was young, I thought everybody thought the same way.”

To better handle animals, Grandin suggested a few tips to keep them calm:

• Get hyper-observant of your animal’s environment. “Animals’ worlds are sensory-based, not word based,” Grandin said.

• Tie up loose ends of chains. Hanging chains scare livestock.

• Rapid movement has opposite effects on different animals. Predators like dogs chase after it, but prey like cattle run away.

• Never pat an animal, Grandin said; they “interpret pats as aggression.”

• Livestock are herd animals; they get frightened when separated from the group. “Always bring a buddy for livestock,” Grandin said. “They stay calmer.”

Event organizer Andrew Perkins declared the two-day fair a success Sunday. He said that although it would take several days to determine the exact attendance because of “electrical issues,” estimates range from about 9,000 to 10,000 people.

Organizers anticipated a weekend draw of 10,000.

“It seems to have gone quite well,” Perkins said. “Feedback, just in conversations, has been overwhelmingly positive.