Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson


Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Club Discussion Questions

January 19, 2016.

SummaryIn her groundbreaking, best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her experience as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel. Now she builds on those insights to show us how to give our animals the best and happiest life–on their terms, not ours. Knowing what causes animals physical pain is usually easy, but pinpointing emotional distress is much harder. Drawing on the latest research and her own work, Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals and then explains how to fulfill the specific needs of dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, zoo animals, and even wildlife. Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures.


1. One of the central premises of Temple Grandin’s book is that animals are motivated by “blue ribbon emotions.” This programming is hardwired by nature and set by the nature of the animal, e.g., prey, predator. Did you find this a helpful way of thinking about animals? What do you think about Grandin’s insight about how animals, like those with autism, think in images with extreme attention to detail?

2. Grandin’s outlines recent research on the social characteristics of dogs and wolves. Were you surprised to find that dogs are not traditional pack animals as most of us have been taught?

3. Cats are different from dogs in their degree of domestication. Cats do not have the same ability or desire to understand and please humans. Did Grandin’s discussion about cats make you respect cats less or more?

4. Horses are dominated by fear. It takes real ability and training to acclimate horses to stressful, fear-inducing situations such as getting into a horse trailer. Were you surprised to learn a significant percentage of horses are not able to make the transition?

5. Grandin’s chapter about cows stresses the importance of the proper handling of cattle for slaughter. Without constant supervision, even properly trained slaughterhouse personnel tend to revert to negative animal care procedures. Were you surprised by this? What does it say about human nature?

6. The proper study of wildlife takes laborious field work. Were you amazed by how little we still know about animals as demonstrated by recent advances in the area of cheetah breeding?

7. Zoos can be controversial. The conditions can be sub-optimal for the animals, but there are scientific, educational, and preservation benefits? Are zoos worth it?

8. Did you like the book? Is consideration for animal welfare a conservative or liberal value?
What do you think about Grandin’s style and abilities as an author?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s