Artists for Ahimsa Award 2021


Our Symphony with Animals book cover

Our Symphony With Animals (Pegasus Books)

Aysha Akhtar

Aysha Akhtar M.D./ M.P.H.


Compassionby Aysha Akhtar

Each year Compassion Arts Festival gives special recognition for artistry in animal advocacy, by highlighting the work of a devoted individual who is helping animals by using creativity in exceptional or extraordinary ways. In celebration of these visionary vegan change-makers, the festival presents the Artists for Ahimsa Award, to bring attention to the power of creativity in helping animals and the ways that artistry can deepen our understanding, raise awareness, cultivate peaceful change, and provide a path or platform for others to help animals as well.

Center for Contemprary Sciences logo

This year our 2021 Artists for Ahimsa Award honoree is Dr. Aysha Akhtar for her work in the Center for Contemporary Sciences, a non-profit organization using creativity, compassion, and innovation in science for the replacement of animal testing. The author of Our Symphony With Animals: On Health, Empathy and Our Shared Destinies, Dr. Akhtar is also an avid artist who uses her artwork to raise funds for her work in advancing animal-free research.

Dr. Akhtar at Tedx

Dr. Akhtar at Tedx

Dr. Akhtar is also a Tedx speaker who talks about the connections between plant-based living and compassion for animals with our daily lives and human health. She is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the author of numerous articles and written works about animals and our relationship with them, as well as essays and written works advocating for the consideration and inclusion of animals as part of the ‘public’ in public health. A US veteran and a double-board certified neurologist and preventative medicine specialist with a background in public health, she is also an avid gardener and artist, a lover of wildlife, nature, and all animals, and a writer and illustrator who hopes to one day create her own children’s books.

Learn more about Aysha Akhtar and her work.

Read some of Aysha’s articles and essays.

Explore some of Aysha Akhtar’s artwork that is sold to benefit the replacement of animal testing.

Quote from Tedx

“I am on a mission to show how treating animals with kindness is not only good for animals, but also good for us. Join me as I explore how animal protection is a win-win for everyone.”
- Aysha Akhtar/ MD, MPH

Artwork by Aysha Aktar, proceeds given to replace animal testing


Compassion Arts Festival began the annual Artist for Ahimsa Award in 2018. Since then, we have been honored to present it each year to advocates for animals who use their creativity and artistry in work that helps animals directly, raises awareness and educates, and inspires others. Past honorees include Allison Argo (2018) — a multiple Emmy Award winning filmmaker, writer, and director and founder of Argo Films; Jo-Anne McArthur (2019) — a photojournalist, author, and founder of We Animals Media and the Unbound Project; Cyrus Mejia (2020) — an artist and the co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society and Raven Heart Gallery.

Allison Argo

Allison Argo

Jo-Anne McArthur

Jo-Anne McArthur

Cyrus Merjia

Cyrus Mejia

Since Compassion Arts is an all-volunteer project that does not accept donations or have funding to be able to award grants, the Ahimsa Award that we give is a painting created specifically for the honoree about their work, from Compassion Arts colleague and artist Jane O’Hara, as an expression of our support and appreciation.

A New Dawn

A New Dawn (2018)

The Last Picture

The Last Picture (2019)

Mejia’s Magic

Mejia’s Magic (2020)


A Better World, shown below, is our 2021 Artists for Ahimsa Award painting created by artist Jane O’Hara for this year’s honoree Aysha Akhtar. For more details, please see the Compassion Arts video interview below for our Zoom ‘award presentation’ conversation with Dr. Akhtar and Jane O’Hara.

A Better World

A Better World by Jane O’Hara


As part of the Artist for Ahimsa Award’s mission to spotlight the work of our honorees, Compassion Arts will begin a new program in the coming months called The Tulip Tree Project, which will focus a virtual arts event for young people around different aspects of the work of Ahimsa Award recipients. The Tulip Tree Project is a Compassion Arts program in development, to encourage the creativity and voices of young people and children, around deepening our connection with animals and nature. The project will present original and age appropriate virtual events in the arts during the year (such as a Community Art Project or a poetry slam) to explore compassion for other animals and the natural world, in positive, creative, and empowering ways.

Tulip Tree

Tulip Tree

Ummed (Hope)

Aysha & Pig


Home by Aysha Akhtar