May 6, 2021
52: "Ending animal testing is a win-win for humans and animals" - neurologist CEO Aysha Akhtar - Sentientist Conversation
Play • 1 hr 10 min

Aysha ( & is a neurologist, public health specialist & author. She is President & CEO of the Center for Contemporary Sciences ( She worked for the Office of Counterterrorism & Emerging Threats of the FDA & served as Lieutenant Commander in the US Public Health Service. She is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. Aysha wrote: "Animals &  Public Health: Why treating animals better is critical to human welfare."

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is "evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings." The video of our conversation is here on YouTube.

We discuss:

0:00 Welcome & Sentientism

2:10 Aysha Intro

- Neurology, public health, emerging threats (e.g. pandemics)

- Setting up CCS to replace all animal research and testing with human relevant methods

4:27 What's Real? Renouncing Islam, becoming atheist

- Growing up in a Pakistani Muslim family, but more culturally than strictly religious

- Calling herself a Muslim, but then seeing how her father & Muslim society treated girls & women differently

- Feeling pressure to dress modestly

- Announcing "I renounce Islam" at 11 yrs old

- Still believing in a god, then becoming an atheist

- "Why would a god care about me and not someone else living a miserable life?" "If there is a god, why is there so much suffering?"

- How can the suffering we cause animals be something a god could allow?

- Religion helps people feel less lost. Understanding why people cling to it

- Meaning, value, moral structure, purpose, community, love, awe & wonder are available naturalistically too.

15:50 What Matters Morally? All suffering & flourishing beings

- Keeping the good parts of religious morality

- "Living a life that causes the least amount of harm & the greatest amount of joy possible"

- "Of course that includes non-human animals because they feel, they have emotions"

- Our moral basics can be very simple

- Rights, dignity, personhood, sentience

- Why so much philosophy assumes only humans matter. The fundamental mistake of disregarding so much suffering

- People seem more concerned about the potential suffering of AI & mini organic brains, while not caring about animals

- Experiencing sexual abuse & finding solace with Sylvester the dog "my best friend"

- Finding out Sylvester was being physically abused & calling that out, then finding the confidence to stand up for herself

- Accidentally being sent PETA materials about the life of a dairy cow. The family went vegetarian that evening

- Being a vegetarian in the Pakistani community in the 1980's was unheard of

- Being made fun of my other kids, but "I didn't give a damn". "I didn't care what they thought about me I cared what they thought about the issue"

- Reading Regan, Singer. Finding the connections between human & non-human ethics & rights

- "We were such nerds"

31:05 What are sentience & consciousness?

- And more - see YT!

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