Wednesday 22 November 2017

Real-life 'Dr Dolittle' to advise Teagasc as farm accidents soar

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

THE expertise of a real-life 'Dr Dolittle' has been called upon for help in reducing animal-related accidents in the workplace.

Temple Grandin is an autistic professor who shot to fame as the subject of an award-winning eponymous Hollywood movie. Now her expertise is being harnessed in new guides targeted at Irish farmers.

Livestock account for two-thirds of injuries on Irish farms as larger herds and more mechanisation mean animals are increasingly unused to human contact.

This prompted Teagasc -- the agricultural research and advisory organisation -- to advocate using Prof Grandin's approach, which involves getting inside the minds of animals.

New figures from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show there were 55 workplace deaths in 2011 and 22 of these were on farms.

Teagasc said hundreds of people each month are also being injured by cattle on farms, with livestock accounting for 65pc of all accidents on farms.

Teagasc has worked on a European Union safety project using Prof Grandin's work to help farmers understand why cattle react the way they do to certain actions. Prof Grandin believes traditional approaches, like driving cattle from behind is wrong as it is likely to cause the animals to take flight if they can't see the person.

She advocates standing near the animal's shoulder instead, where it can see you better and will be more easily influenced.

Teagasc and the HSA are now distributing Prof Grandin's approach via DVD. These are also available on Youtube and will be shown at marts and on safety training courses.

Prof Grandin is a doctor of animal science at Colorado State University, and has worked with McDonald's fast food chain to introduce humane slaughtering standards at abbatoirs. She was portrayed by actress Claire Danes in the film 'Temple Grandin' which won five Emmy awards in 2010.

She has also been a leading advocate for autism awareness and education, and has said that her empathy and respect for animals is linked to her own condition.

She was named as one of 'TIME' magazine's Top 100 most influential people for 2010.

Irish Independent

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