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R.I.P. Bernie Rollin: Animal rights advocate and ‘father of veterinary medical ethics’ is dead at 78

In 1981, Bernie had published 'Animal Rights and Human Morality', one of the first books about humans' moral obligation to animals in what was then the fledgling field of animal ethics. He would go on to write several more books and teach animal ethics for almost 40 more years.

ERIN UDELL: Bernie Rollin, a longtime Colorado State University professor and “father of veterinary medical ethics,” died Friday, Nov. 19. He was 78 years old. Rollin leaves behind his wife of 57 years, Linda; their son, Dr. Michael Rollin; two grandchildren; and a legacy at CSU stretching back more than half a century.

The brusque Brooklynite came to the university in 1969, taking over a faculty position in CSU’s philosophy department after meeting the department’s then-chair Willard Eddy in an elevator at a conference in Washington, D.C., Linda, 78, recalled. The Rollins moved sight unseen to Fort Collins with their beloved pets: a black Great Dane named Helga and a cat named Mao…

The couple first moved into a rental house in a rural area near Terry Lake, where Bernie became fascinated with their neighbor’s horses. They would soon get the first barn animal of their own — an ornery, long-haired donkey they named Edward R. Burro… She would also be their only donkey. After buying their longtime home on acreage near the northern edge of Boyd Lake a few years later, the couple largely stuck to dogs, cats and horses…

About a decade into his time at CSU, a chance conversation in the university’s gym locker room allowed Bernie to parlay his love for animals into a whole new chapter of his career, Linda said. “The guy at the locker over from (Bernie) asked if he taught medical ethics,” which Rollin did, Linda recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, can you teach ethics to veterinarians?’ ” “Bernie said, ‘Yeah, just give me a textbook and I can do that,’ ” Linda said. “It turned out there was was no textbook because there was no such field. So that’s how it began.”

By 1981, Bernie had published “Animal Rights and Human Morality” — one of the first books about humans’ moral obligation to animals in what was then the fledgling field of animal ethics. The following year, he co-wrote the 1982 federal laws enforcing the humane treatment of animals in research… Bernie would go on to write several more books and teach animal ethics for almost 40 more years, including as a professor of animal sciences, professor of biomedical science, university distinguished professor and university bioethicist, according to his CSU staff page…

After living with congestive heart failure and joint problems, Bernie’s health declined rapidly starting last year, Linda said. A private service was Wednesday, Nov. 23 for Bernie’s close family, including his son Michael. In her sole request to me, Linda asked I stress how proud Bernie was of him. Due to the state of COVID-19 in Colorado, a public celebration of life won’t be held for Bernie, though Linda said she hopes one will be possible this spring. For now, Linda is instead trying to navigate this strange new world without Bernie, her constant companion since they were 18.

In a completely out of character moment. Linda — a self-described skeptic — said she had a vision two nights after Bernie died. It was of the rainbow bridge, a place written about in works of poetry where pets who have died wait to be reunited with their human companions. “There was Bernie sitting on a bench absolutely covered in every dog and cat we’ve ever had, the horses behind him, a chorus of mice standing before him like a military band,” Linda said. And maybe — just maybe — there was an onery, long-haired donkey, too. SOURCE…


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