Anyone seeking the premises of animal ethics in the 17th century might be disappointed. "Brute beasts", as they were then called, were excluded from the sphere of obligations by many, not only by a few cartesian mechanists. A lot of authors maintained that "beasts" feel and even that they have a soul, which is not that different from ours. Many were outraged at human cruelty towards them. Some claimed that they are endowed with reason, sometimes using them as a point of comparison in order to belittle human pride. They were even given rights. The diversity of positions, representations and arguments rarely coincides with the charges we lay against early modern philosophy today. Not all of these authors are Cartesians, and the animal-machine theory is perhaps a little more than the effect of a mere prejudice. Paradoxically, those who were the freest from anthropocentrism radically claimed the absence of any ethical link between men and beasts. Reading these works from another age in the light of a question they could not formulate challenges what we consider self-evident today and provides us with resources to pose and solve problems that are ours, and not theirs.