Creature comforts

November 20, 2008

I don't know which was more alarming about Bob Blaisdell's article on teaching ("You can lead cattle to water but you can't make them think", 13 November): his belief that the treatment of cattle at a slaughterhouse is an appropriate analogy for his teaching methods or his assumption that those cattle will trot far more happily to their death when they are no longer distracted by the blades of electric fans thanks to the "humane" designs of Temple Grandin.

Blaisdell appears to adopt a pick'n'mix approach to the behaviour of non-human animals that acknowledges their natural curiosity and notable intelligence while confidently asserting that they have no awareness, whatsoever, that they are going to their death when forced "up the chute" at the slaughterhouse.

Might I suggest that rather than dwelling on Grandin's musings on why cattle are reluctant to go up that chute (no prizes for guessing that one), he read the excellent work of fellow US academics Gary Francione, Tom Regan and Bob Torres, all of whom provide remarkable insight into the behaviour of non-human animals and the contradictions inherent in our treatment of them, as exemplified by the work of Grandin.

And with their emphasis on ethical obligations, respect and what Francione calls "equal consideration", I think they will provide a far better model for Blaisdell's classroom than the slaughterhouse.

Phillippa Bennett, Northampton.

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