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Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H. Headshot

It's Official: Animal Protection IS Human Protection

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"Animal protection is now mainstream."

This was announced at the 5th annual Classy Awards held in San Diego this weekend. The Classy Awards Ceremony honors outstanding nonprofit programs in eight major social sectors, including animal protection, education advancement, poverty and hunger relief, environmental protection, human rights and social justice, and others.

The two-day collaborative brought together hundreds of people from around the world -- some from for-profit organizations, many from non-profit. What they all have in common is that the work they do is for the social good.

As a Leadership Council Member, I was proud to recognize amazing organizations trying their hardest to alleviate the suffering of animals. I was even more proud to stand there with other social organizations trying to improve the world for everyone-human and non-human.

And here's the best part: animal protection was seen as an equal with the other social sectors. The chasm that traditionally separated animal protection from human protection has closed. Business cards were exchanged across all sectors.

Organizations fighting human trafficking and slavery are now seeking partnerships with those fighting animal trafficking. There are common roots to both.

An initiative to teach kids empathy for animals (called humane education) can help combat underlying causes that lead to violence in schools as well.

Cutting animals out of the food equation and replacing them with more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly plant-based foods can help alleviate world hunger and slow environmental degradation.

Using human life-like simulators that breathe, bleed and even "die" instead of shooting, burning and cutting into animals is proven to be far more effective for military trauma training. After all, these simulators can be used again and again (unlike animals who are killed if the students make mistakes) and have human anatomy -- that's pretty crucial for our military to be best prepared to conduct life-saving techniques in the field.

My motto has always been: by saving animals we save ourselves. Maybe that sounds a bit pollyanish. But it's true in its utter simplicity. In virtually every way in which we interact with animals as individuals or as a society, when animals are treated with basic kindness and respect, we also benefit.

I've shown how the human plight is inextricably tied to that of other animals. A substantial proportion of the most significant and urgent public health issues we face today are intricately linked with how we treat animals. These links include:

Here's my recent TED talk. I show how we no longer can afford to think as though we need to make a choice to either protect animals or humans. Our lives depend on treating animals better.

So that there should no longer be any doubts, the events of the Classy Awards make it official: Animal protection IS human protection. It's as simple as that.

Want to learn more? Join me on facebook and follow me on twitter @DrAyshaAkhtar

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