Interview about the book Animals and Public Health on One Green Planet

Scientist and author Jonathan Balcombe takes a moment to interview Dr. Akhtar about her book,  Animals and Public Health.

By Jonathan Balcombe: Scientist & Author | Animal Treatment: Why It Matters for Human Health

On the occasion of her new book, Animals and Public Health. Why Treating Animals Better is Critical to Human Welfare, I asked author and long-time friend, Dr. Aysha Akhtar, to share her views about this important topic.

Aysha Akhtar, MD, MPH is a neurologist and public health specialist, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and works for the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Akhtar lives in North Potomac, Maryland, with her husband Patrick and her ornery cat, Silos. The opinions expressed here are solely hers.

Jonathan Balcombe: What is the most important issue at the juncture of animals and healthcare?

Dr. Aysha Akhtar: The most important issue is the juncture between animals and healthcare. We have predominately viewed our health in an evolutionary vacuum—ignoring its connection with the environment, and more specifically, with our relationship with other animals. But this needs to change. Our health is inextricably tied with how we treat animals. It has always been so, but today there is real evidence to show just how many of our greatest public health threats are connected with animal treatment. This includes violence, infectious disease epidemics and pandemics, the human health impact from climate change and environmental disruptions, and obesity and chronic diseases.

JB: What key advice do you offer readers?

AA: The book addresses four main topics: animal agriculture, animal abuse, the wildlife trade and animal experimentation. I draw connections between these issues and human health. At the end of each chapter I offer suggestions on how we can relieve animal suffering and thereby protect our own health.

But there is something simple and profound that each person can do that will have a tremendous, reverberating impact: become a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan. This single step reduces animal suffering, improves our climate, stalls infectious disease epidemics, combats obesity and diabetes, and lowers our risk of cancers and strokes. By choosing one plate of food over another, we can each single-handedly accomplish a great deal. I challenge anyone to name a drug that can do that!

To read the full interview on One Green Planet – please click here.