TEMPLE GRANDIN: I just want to, on the last part of my talk, talk about problems with genetics and animals, both production food animals and pet animals such as dogs. If you over-select for a single trait-- it might be an appearance trait in a dog, it might be a production trait such as weight gain in a meat animal-- you're going to end up with problems.
What I'm seeing is worse and worse problems with both production animals and pets. Dairy cattle more and more milk production, pigs more and more meat production. The pig industry, when they went into the lean type of pigs, they want them nice and lean, they forgot about looking at foot and leg confirmation. Ended up a whole bunch of lame pigs. Took 10 years to get in that mess.
How did you get in a mess like that? It happened slowly. It happened slowly over a period of 10 years. I call that bad becoming normal. People just didn't realize it was happening.
You can take some of the dog breeds now that have to have the puppies by Cesarean. That's not a good thing. That's really a bad thing.
Well, I thought in some of the work that I've done, animal welfare, I had to get involved with layer chickens, and they've bred the layer chicken. The modern hybrid white layer, to be a very prolific egg producer on a small amount of feed. That's called good feed conversion. And what's happened is they inadvertently bred a bird that was cannibalistic and very, very hyper. Very hyper, nervous disposition. And when she gets to the end of the laying period, she's a frazzled wreck that's lost half her feathers.
Well, how did people get into a mess like that? Again, it happened slowly. When I saw the birds when they looked old, I go, this is just absolutely disgusting. This bird's half bald. And what had happened is she had been bred to put so much into her eggs that she didn't have very strong feathers. Now you take another kind of a bird, a brown bird that's got a heavier body, when she gets old, she still looks like a chicken, but this is an example of over-selecting for a single trait.
But don't get too hard on agricultural animals. I am appalled at some of the stuff going on with pets these days. Like the Shar-Pei, for example, it's just one non-stop vet bill after another. I just think it's just disgusting. I think it's some of those dogs are deformed freaks. I don't think they're cute. I think it's deformed. We should not be breeding animals they have all kinds of awful health problems. But what happens is bad becomes normal. It happens slowly and people don't have other animals to compare it against.
I was going around visiting a whole lot of places, and I go, ugh, these chickens are really bad compared to some I saw another farm.
People think it's really nice to have these kind of pale blue-eyed Huskies and things like that. Well, you breed two of those together you're likely to get deaf puppies. I think that's just revolting.
When the pork industry started breeding for lean pigs, they wanted to get rid of the fat in the pork and make more healthy pork, as they bred for the lean pigs with large muscles, the pigs got more excitable and nervous, and they were worse about fighting. Nobody knew that when you bred a pig to be lean, you also would accidentally be breeding him to be mean.
Traits are linked, and traits are linked in unexpected ways. And as scientists learn more and more about the genome, they'll be able to figure out these links, but right now sometimes genetics can just throw you some really rude, nasty surprises.
Now I was one of the first people to discover that these pigs were crazy, because I saw many different pigs. See, the breeders of the lean pigs never went to any farms that had the fatter kind of pigs. But I was going to the meat plants, and I'd see pigs coming in from lots of different places. And I noticed that the lame pigs got a lot more excited and squealed a lot more than some of the other pigs, because I was seeing many different pics.
Where the breeders, over a period of 10 years, only saw their own pigs, so they didn't see. They didn't have any visual comparison to show that they were breeding this behavior problem. Then finally the industry realized that it had a problem, and now some of the leg problems are getting corrected and some of the temperament problems are getting corrected.
And we went overboard on leanness because we got meat that's dried out and tough. But there's a tendency to get way overboard into real trouble before you realize that let's look at the animal sort of more as a whole. Look at the whole animal.
Physical traits are linked in unexpected ways. You over-select for a single trait, I don't care what it is. It could be an appearance trait, it could be a production trait, you're going to wreck your animal. I don't care if it's an agricultural animal or a pet animal.
Now the scientist Belyeav years ago did an experiment that really gives insight into this problem of traits being linked. They had these fox farms, and they wanted to breed foxes that were gentler and easier to work with. Now the wild type fox has got a real lean body. Skinny legs. Long pointy snout. So they started selecting for gentle foxes, and they did this for 20 generations.
And at the end of 20 generations they ended up with a gentle black-and-white border collie fox with a border collie black-and-white coloring. Who would have dreamed the color pattern would be linked to temperament? He also had a much heavier body. He also had more serotonin in his brain-- that's the stuff that the Prozac helps your brain get more serotonin. The traits were linked.
OK, now they've made a domestic fox dog. It was a perfectly good animal. This is how domestication took place. But there's a point where you can overdo it. And they kept doing it to the point where they got epilepsy. You can do this and yep, you just domesticated the fox and you have a perfectly good animal. But you go too far, then you get health problems and you get behavioral abnormalities and you get neurological abnormalities.
I just want to talk a little bit about a few of my books, Animals in Translation, and then of course, my main autism book is Thinking in Pictures. And I just want to thank everybody for our being here today and I do have a website, Grandin.com. On that website I've got a lot of my animal handling information. And thank you very much.
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Join Dr. Temple Grandin as she offers new insights on life with autism and how this unique perspective has helped her to develop award-winning techniques for handling livestock.
This video is part 8 of 8 in the Autism & Animal Behaviors series.