When philosopher Bernard Rollin was six years old, he visited an animal shelter and was told about unwanted dogs being put to sleep. The event shaped his moral outlook and initiated his concern for how animals were treated. In his irreverent memoir, Putting the Horse before Descartes, Rollin provides an account of how he came to educate himself and others about the ethical treatment of animals and work toward improvements in animal welfare.
Rollin describes, in witty, often disarming detail, how he became an outspoken critic of how animals were being treated in veterinary and medical schools as well as in research labs. Putting the Horse before Descartes showcases the passionate animal advocate at his best. He recalls teaching veterinary students about ethical issues. He also recalls face-offs with ranchers and cowboys about branding methods and roping competitions in rodeos. In addition, he describes his work to legally mandate more humane conditions for agricultural and laboratory animals. As public concern about animal welfare and the safety of the food supply heighten, Rollin carries on this work all over the world—in classrooms, lecture halls and legislatures, meetings of agricultural associations and industrial settings, as well as in print.
Putting the Horse before Descartes, ultimately, is more than a memoir. Rollin offers a wide-ranging discussion of ethical issues in many settings and he testifies to the myriad ways that people of good conscience accept their ethical responsibility in regard to animals.