Working Toward Oneness: Empathy for All

I’ve just finished Dr. Aysha Akhtar’s book Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy, and Our Shared Destinies. I had seen it referenced in other books I’ve read this year, and assumed reading it would be akin to reading poetry.  How I came to that expectation, I’m not sure, but it was most inaccurate; the author writes about animal & child abuse, the deplorable conditions of factory farms, and how violence toward animals is often commonplace for serial killers. The information is vital, the kind of knowledge that each of us should posses, but it’s hard not to wince at the recurrent brutality presented.

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ~St. Francis of Assisi

My little climbing friend who believes the contents of the bird feeder are just for him! I think he enjoys entertaining us, too.

Dr. Akhtar has examined studies and done her own research on the direct correlation between savagery toward animals and violence toward humans.  In the chapter of her book entitled The Making of a Murderer, she describes face-to-face conversations with Keith Jesperson, a man serving life in prison due to the rape and murder of 8 women.  Prior to the age of 10, Jesperson’s father encouraged and praised him for killing animals.  He estimates that he clubbed to death thousands of gophers, sometimes with his dad laughing & recording the attacks on video.  Later, he moved on to strangling and stabbing domestic animals when they didn’t act in accordance to his will, and poisoning a flock of about 50 birds for soiling his truck.  Dr. Akhtar’s chilling accounts of these & other stories from Jesperson’s upbringing demonstrate a young mind being primed for murder.

Psychologist Frank Ascione, an authority on the connection between animal cruelty and other violent acts, says animal abuse may be part of the history of between 25% and 66% of hardened criminals.  A propensity for violence is common for those carrying out the sanctioned killing of animals, as well.  According to the university paper Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates, areas with a high number of slaughterhouse workers have more than twice the problems with crime than areas with none.  In her book, Dr. Akhtar shares quotes from past and present employees of slaughterhouses that reveal the extreme attitude of indifference they had to develop during their job of stabbing or beating animals to death. More and more studies are showing that compartmentalizing such apathy is not possible: it spills over into our personal lives.

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity. ~George Bernard Shaw

A beloved Aunt in Montana shared these cuties

Animal Clock is an organization that was created to bring attention to the incredible number of animals currently suffering on factory farms.  According to their calculations, over 42 billion animals have been killed for food in the US alone so far this year, including over 8 billion chickens, 23 million ducks, 36 million cattle, and 124 million pigs.  Dr. Akhtar writes, If there is a trait that truly distinguishes us from other animals, it’s this: No other species is as capable of self-deceit as humans.  We ignore what affronts our worldview.  We disbelieve what we can’t ignore.  We rationalize what we can’t disbelieve.  “These things happen.  They’re necessary.  It’s not as bad as we think.”  And most dangerous of all, “it’s normal.”

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men. ~Alice Walker, American novelist & social activist

Our empathy is divided: the thought of eating our beloved pets is outrageous, but a slab of flesh from another species is a different story.  Many of us still buy products that have been tested on lab rats.  We purchase leather items, never pausing to think of the animal who unwillingly donated that skin.  It is important to realize all animals are sentient creatures: they love, experience joy, support each other, learn, get excited, mourn, and console as needed.  By purchasing meats and other animal-derived products, we disregard their endearing, human-like qualities and cast a vote for continued violence. 

Our Symphony with Animals shows that animal abuse is often found along the same path as human brutality.  I believe Mahatma Gandhi was spot-on when he said the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Holding ourselves accountable for respecting the lives of all animals could be the panacea for reducing overall violence.

Blessings for Empathy,


The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

42 thoughts on “Working Toward Oneness: Empathy for All

  1. Any cruelty to animals should be outlawed, of course, but we humans have been killing animals for many years. I read recently (The Missing Lynx, The Past and Future of Britain’s Lost Mammals by Ross Barnett) that we are currently living through the 6th great extermination of species, but what really changed my perception was that it began many many thousands of years ago! The catalogue of species, all killed by increasing numbers of humans, for food is shocking!
    On a more optimistic note, today a report was published here in the UK by the National Food Strategy stating that meat consumption here has dropped by 17% in the last decade! The right direction, but perhaps not fast enough! Thank you, Lisa, for another thought-provoking post. Enjoy your weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi, Ashley, I appreciate your adding to the conversation. Our legacy is indeed a sad one, considering our violence toward all animals, including our own species. 17% is a really big drop! I’ll have to look into whether US meat consumption has dropped. (I seriously doubt it.) Glad you enjoyed the post, my friend! Hoping your weekend is joyful, too! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an important post Lisa and it is atrocious and should be punishable .. I’m so sad that there is so much of it. Our beloved animals are our lifeline to humanity. Wonderful post and awareness raised. love the pup dogs beautiful eyes.
    Wonderful quote
    ” I believe Mahatma Gandhi was spot-on when he said the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Holding ourselves accountable for respecting the lives of all animals could be the panacea for reducing overall violence.”
    have a blessed weekend my dear friend 💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your ongoing support means so much to me, Cindy! I find the propensity for violence in humans terrifying, regardless of their subject. Punishment including rehab with animals could be the fix! Dr. Akhtar includes in her book a story about animals turning around the life of a guy who once worked for the mob. Pretty impressive. I hope your weekend will be fun & relaxing, as well, sweet one! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh your words are the gift Lisa and I truly appreciate your thoughtful posts. That sounds like a great idea. Violence from encouragement or repression are both what keeps these dreadful acts happening. The book sounds amazing my friend. I’m doing well thanks so and hope you are too!💖💖

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate the stats as data is the cornerstone of reasoning. It is the correlation vs causation where it gets difficult. Until we can treat fellow humans with civility, there is little chance that will trickle down to the animal kingdom as a whole. Are we ultimately evil at the core and as a general class suppress acting upon it or are we inherently good with bouts of weakness initiated by outside forces. Never came to consensus from my many elective abnormal psych classes beyond confirming there is no generally understood civility/decency boundary that will not be crossed at some point. I thought the high school drivers ed scare videos were bad enough until I dipped my toes in the dark underbelly of society. Interesting post Lisa, something to ponder during my upcoming race.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your response, Brian. Primarily due to my spiritual beliefs (God in everything/everyone) I believe that we all come into this world as loving beings; it’s our learning that can take us to dark places. Maybe by treating animals with kindness, that love and respect is subconsciously applied to all species, including humans. And vice versa. Our kind has the capability of being quite cruel, but astoundingly kind, as well. All the best on the run! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is a very healthy perspective and I think you are right on the learning impact. I also wholeheartedly agree that kind people outnumber the bad actors – problem is we are more exposed to the bad actors thanks to the click-bait driven media these days. Thanks for the well wishes on the run… assuredly helped me get through some “dark” moments on that endeavor!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have had that book on my reading list ever since you suggested it a few weeks ago. After reading this post, I am looking forward to reading it even more. It is so difficult for me to understand how people can be so cruel to animals. It is also strange to me how most people can say they are against animal cruelty but still use products that were tested on animals or don’t think twice about poor conditions at slaughterhouses. Have you read Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin? If you haven’t read that one yet I think it is something you would enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Suzanne, I have added Temple Grandin’s book to my must-read list, thanks! Happy to hear you’ll be delving into Our Symphony with Animals. It is heartbreaking but hopeful. It’s hard for me to understand animal cruelty, as well. I think something must be “broken” inside an individual who engages in such behavior. Have a blessed weekend, my friend! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lisa, and thank you for the blessing; we all need them more than ever I believe these days!
        A bit busy today so will be looking forward to check things out more very soon!
        God bless you! ✝️🕊🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this post, Lisa. Such an important topic and one dear to my heart. I have witnessed animal cruelty by the same person who abused me and many I know. It hurt me just the same…perhaps more so.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

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