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Jim Sinclair, an Autistic Person, on Temple Grandin

Bea, whom I think researches animal matters all day long (when not tending to the creatures she cares for), sent me a link to an essay called "If you love something, you don't kill it" by Jim Sinclair, who is an autistic person.

Two notes: Yes, he uses the words "thing" and "it" and you cannot kill a thing, which was never alive to begin with. And with regard to "autistic person" versus "person with autism," please read Sinclair's "Why I dislike 'person first' language," which includes:

Saying "person with autism" suggests that the autism can be separated from the person.  But this is not the case.  I can be separated from things that are not part of me, and I am still be the same person . . . . Saying "person with autism" suggests that even if autism is part of the person, it isn't a very important part. . . . Saying "person with autism" suggests that autism is something bad–so bad that is isn't even consistent with being a person.  Nobody objects to using adjectives to refer to characteristics of a person that are considered positive or neutral.  We talk about left-handed people, not "people with left-handedness," and about athletic or musical people, not about "people with athleticism" or "people with musicality."

Back to "If you love something . . ."

It doesn’t matter if they’re not afraid of death before they know what’s going to happen to them.  In the moment when the killing happens, they know, and they want to stay alive . . . . Dying as a natural process is not the same as killing a healthy living creature . . . . If you understand life, you know that it wants to continue.  If you feel life throbbing under your touch, you know it’s desecration to set your hand to stop that living pulse . . . . The hangman’s knot, the guillotine, the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the lethal injection were all designed to make deliberately inflicted death less painful to the victim.  But I’ve never heard the inventors or the users of these technologies hailed as great humanitarians.  I’ve never heard them praised for their great empathy toward the lives they’ve ended. [emphasis mine]

Have a great day. I have a list of OED words from you and I'll get to a couple tomorrow.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. You know what–I had *completely* forgotten about that essay by Jim Sinclair! An autism advocate actually sent me the link a while back, and then it just slipped right off my radar. Thanks for noting it (and reminding me that it's out there!).

    February 24, 2009
  2. What a great find!
    Bea is wonderful 🙂

    February 24, 2009
  3. Yes, Stephanie I found this essay on your Grandin blog… I made reference to it in my comment… thanking the person before me, who posted it… And considering the savage business that Grandin is in, Sinclair's essay is a gem, I agree. His other writings: "What Does Being Different Mean?" and his "Thoughts About Empathy" are interesting too… His emphasis on using accurate words, avoiding assumptions, and asking specific questions are great advice in any relationship.

    And regarding my diligent quest for information regarding animals… I suppose I'm still picking up pieces in "After Shock"… As I still just can't believe how awfully we treat animals! And how easy it has been for the Grandin culture to spoon feed us the myths… Exposing the lies and embracing clarity has it's healing effects. The more fact-finding and critical thinking I do, the safer my (new) world becomes… And maybe I'm making up for lost time, seeing now all that the animals suffer… I should have been a witness decades ago…

    February 24, 2009
  4. OH… and thanks Elaine – the feeling is absolutely mutual – You know that! 😉

    February 24, 2009
  5. Ian Smith #

    I thought Sinclair's explanation for using "autistic person" over "person with autism" made complete sense and was somewhat refreshing.

    On a related note (perhaps), while I most definitely share your revulsion to referring to animals as "it" or "thing" rather than "who", what is your opinion of using a phrase such as "my cat" or "my dog"? I can understand that some might take this to suggest ownership which is inappropriate but it mimics the form of perfectly acceptable phrases such as "my brother" or "my uncle".

    My inchoate thought is that like with many things context dictates and one may need to consider the intent or general character of the speaker. "My cat" can and likely does imply ownership when spoken by a known speciesist but when spoken by someone who realizes that animals are individuals and not things may simply be used to imply a certain relationship that the animal and the speaker share.

    February 25, 2009
  6. Dan #

    I agree, Ian. Context matters, and so does non-speciesist ordinary language use; e.g "my brother".

    February 26, 2009
  7. Very interesting and logical–both parts of it!

    February 27, 2009
  8. Gosh, this is the way of the web – The links to Sinclair's writings has been discontinued.

    But you can find his essay "If you love something, you don't kill it"

    And "Why I dislike first person language" here:

    Yep! That's Bea Elliott… just trying to tidy up the internet a bit! 😉

    February 7, 2010
  9. My web site is no longer at, because no longer exists.

    If you use , that will work.


    April 21, 2010

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