Bernard Rollin, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor of philosophy and professor of animal sciences and biomedical sciences, was awarded the prestigious Henry Spira Award by the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing. Rollin, long recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in animal ethics and bioethics and the father of veterinary medical ethics in the United States, accepted the award Aug. 22 in Berlin, Germany.
In the mid-1970s, Rollin, who studied at the University of Edinburgh and Columbia University, began to examine ethical issues raised by animal use in research, such as animal pain and consciousness and the moral status of animals in society. He has published 14 books and more than 300 research papers on general philosophy, genetic engineering, farm animal welfare and animal consciousness and pain. Working with a number of Colorado State veterinarians, he devised legislation that became federal law in 1985 that regulates the veterinary and scientific treatment of animals. He was among the first to pioneer college courses for scientists and veterinarians related to animal bioethics.
Rollin is only the third person in the world to be presented with the Spira award, with other awards given in 1999 and 2002. The award was established in 1999 to honor the memory of Henry Spira, an animal rights pioneer whose campaign for the use of alternatives to testing products on animals led to the founding of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
"Dr. Rollin has been at the leading edge of quite literally changing the way the world views the subject of animal ethics," said Colorado State University Provost and Senior Vice President Tony Frank. "Colorado State University has been extraordinarily fortunate to benefit from his contributions to our faculty, students and institutional reputation. As a popular professor who teaches in three departments, Dr. Rollin provides Colorado State researchers and students with thought-provoking information and excellent ethical resources on which to build their future.
"Dr. Rollin’s globe-spanning work has had and continues to have a major impact on the thinking of scientists, attorneys, ranchers, psychologists and numerous other professionals who interact with animals."
Recipients of the award are selected based on 10 criteria, called "Ways to Make a Difference," based on Spira’s work to improve the lives of animals used for scientific advancement. Within the 10 points, the criteria state that the recipient should be a person of absolute credibility, be open to dialogue from various audiences, understand public opinion, be able to effect balanced action amidst varied opinions, vector in the intensity of animal suffering and seize upon opportunities for change. The award recipient also must be willing to work with all interested parties to make progress without dividing or polarizing groups, as well as focus on practical realities involved in change along with ethical and moral imperatives.
Rollin taught the world’s first course in veterinary medicine ethics at Colorado State, where the course has been a required part of veterinary curricula since 1978. He is credited as a pioneer in reforming animal use in teaching surgery and laboratory exercises in veterinary colleges.
In addition, Rollin serves as an animal research and farm animal welfare issues consultant with various government, regulatory and research agencies around the world, and he has testified before Congress on animal experimentation issues.
Rollin works with and lectures to a variety of groups including animal researchers, animal rights groups, farmers and ranchers, legislators and others, and is recognized as a leader in working with industries on a variety of issues. He has given more than 900 lectures around the world on topics including animal ethics, genetic engineering, animal agriculture, veterinary ethics and bioethics and philosophy. Rollin also is a founder and board member of Optibrand, a Fort Collins company specializing in animal identification and trace-back.
Among other recognitions, Rollin has twice been awarded the Brownlee Award for outstanding achievement in animal welfare science by the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada, and he has been presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association.
Rollin, who grew up in New York City, holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University and a bachelor’s from the City College of New York.
In 2002, the Spira award was given to Andrew Rowan, senior vice president for Research, Education and International Issues at the Humane Society of the United States; adjunct professor at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine; and senior fellow at the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy.
In 1999, Christine Stevens received the first Henry Spira Award. Stevens founded the Animal Welfare Institute in 1951 and a sister lobbying group, the Society for Animal Protection Legislation, four years later.