Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy, and Our Shared Destinies

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Our Symphony with Animals is a beautiful, compassionate, and important book. Dr. Akhtar deftly weaves her personal and professional experiences into the scientific story of how humans are designed to bond with animals–and the cost, to us and to the rest of animate creation, of breaking that bond. Her wonderful book is at once intimate and global, and its message is the most important: empathy with our fellow animals is vital for the health of humans and non-humans alike.–Sy 1st viscount montgomery of alamein, writer of ‘How to Be a Good Creature’

Akhtar uses personal childhood trauma to launch a thoughtful discussion of the extent of, and limits to, human empathy toward animals. Akhtar’s book draws a sobering but hopeful picture of what has been done and what remains to be done to reinforce animals’ lives.

In her eye-opening and touching account, Aysha Akhtar takes us from one example to another of animals making our lives better. Being there for us without judgment regardless of the circumstances, animals have an immense healing power that science is only beginning to grasp.–Frans de Waal, writer of Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

This is a superb, captivating book. Combining memoir, investigative journalism, and science, Aysha Akhtar has produced a marvelous exploration of our troubled, evolving relationship with animals. Themes of vulnerability, injustice, redemption, and love are woven into a moving narrative that drew me in and kept me hungrily turning the pages.–Jonathan Balcombe, writer of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins

In her deeply personal and highly readable book, full of stories that surely will move readers all over, Dr. Aysha Akhtar seamlessly weaves humorous and touching moments at the side of the latest research on animal-human relationships. She shows why the development of close relationships with other animals that are filled with agree with, respect, compassion, empathy, and love are mutually a good idea and a win-win for all. Highly advisable for a global audience.–Marc Bekoff, co-writer of The Animals: Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age

In a heartfelt and urgent call to action, Aysha Akhtar shows how the lives of humans and animals are intertwined.–Gregory Berns, writer of How Dogs Love Us

About the Author

Aysha Akhtar, M.D. is a double Board-Certified in both Neurology and Preventive Medicine and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She serves as Medical Officer for the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats of the Food and Drug Administration, for which she has Top Secret Security Clearance. She is an Officer (Lieutenant Commander) in the U.S. Public Health Services and products, in which she deploys to assist with national public health emergencies. She is also a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and is a Consultant Editor for the Journal of Animal Ethics. She is the writer of Animals and Public Health and lives in Maryland.

A leader in the fields of animal ethics and neurology examines the rich human-animal connection and how interspecies empathy enriches our well-being. Deftly combining medicine, social history and personal experience, Our Symphony with Animals is the first book by a physician to show that humans and animals have a shared destiny our well-being is deeply entwined. Dr. Aysha Akhtar reveals how empathy for animals is the next step in our species’ moral evolution and a vital component of human health. When we include animals in our circle of empathy, we not only liberate animals, we also liberate ourselves. Drawing on the accounts of a varied cast of characters a former mobster, a pediatrician, an industrial chicken farmer, a serial killer, and a deer hunter to reveal what happens when we both break and forge bonds with animals. Interwoven is Dr. Akhtar’s own story, a “skinny brown girl from a poor family” who was bullied in school and sexually abused by her uncle, Feeling abandoned by humanity, it was only when she met Sylvester, a dog who had also been abused, that she find the strength to sound the alarm on both of their abuse. Humans are neurologically designed to empathize with animals. Violence against animals goes against our nature. In equal measure, the love we give to animals biologically reverberates back to us. Our Sympyhony with Animals is the definitive account for why our relationships with animals matter.

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