- 3 January 2023 The Tango of Ethics: Intuition, Rationality and the Prevention of Suffering by OPIS Executive Director Jonathan Leighton is being […]Read More »
- 15 December 2022 Our latest newsletter was just sent out. It contains: reflections on totalitarianism and powerful AI an update on our […]Read More »
- 31 August 2022 A front-page story mentioning OPIS in the widely circulated Swiss daily paper 20 Minutes on 26 August 2022 features […]Read More »
Human and non-human animals
Does the suffering of non-human animals matter as much as human suffering, or are "some animals more equal than others”? We consider it self-evident that suffering matters for its own sake, regardless of who experiences it, and that equal degrees of suffering therefore matter equally. Although we naturally have the strongest feelings for those closest to us and value their lives most, as an organisation OPIS cares about any sentient being, human or non-human, that is suffering intensely. The sheer number of animals suffering on this planet, including the huge numbers kept in horrific conditions on factory farms or otherwise treated with cruelty, means that animal suffering is the area with by far the greatest potential for harm reduction, and it is also the area where the most impact can often be achieved for a given amount of resources. But OPIS is not focused only on non-human animals, as we believe that a holistic approach to preventing suffering on our planet requires that we also aim to relieve our own suffering, and that this approach provides a strong basis for new frameworks for society that protect all sentient beings from suffering.
Legal access to psychedelics for the treatment of cluster “suicide” headaches
We are prominent advocates for better access to effective treatments for patients suffering from excruciating cluster headaches, also known as “suicide headaches” and recognised as one of the most painful conditions known to medicine. Several indoleamine psychedelics can be dramatically effective at preventing or aborting attacks, but their legal status severely restricts access. We wrote a policy paper on legalising access and created an accompanying animated video. We also obtained front-page coverage in a Swiss daily on the successful use of ayahuasca by a patient with a similar condition called SUNCT. Through partnerships with several organisations, we are continuing our advocacy work to help ensure that no one suffering so intensely is deprived of valuable treatment options.
Global access to morphine and pain relief
We have been advocating since early on for global access to effective pain relief, especially morphine in low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of terminal cancer patients and others in severe pain are unable to obtain it. In 2018 we held an expert panel event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and widely distributed an education and advocacy guide to the issue. Through a close collaboration with Hospice Burkina, the palliative care association of the West African country of Burkina Faso, we co-organised and crowdfunded a national conference in December 2019, in association with the Ministry of Health, that launched a national palliative care program including local morphine production. An article about our experience was described by Prof. Felicia Knaul, Chair of the Lancet Commission, as an important read on how to close the global pain divide at the national level.
Ending the torture of non-human animals
The massive torture of animals for human consumption is the largest-scale moral catastrophe of our times. OPIS endorses an explicitly anti-speciesist ethic, and we strongly advocate for the end of factory farming and all torture and abuse of animals, through talks, articles and books, advocacy tools and support for other organisations and their campaigns, and we are signatories to the Plant-Based Treaty and the 2022 Montreal Declaration on Animal Exploitation. Members of our team have also been active in groups like Vegan Option Canada and Animal Rebellion. We also created a comprehensive guide with many links to thriving on a plant-based diet.
Report and visual representation of world suffering data
A project is underway to collect data on the global suffering of human and non-human animals, and to represent it in a visually powerful way. This project will provide a fairly comprehensive overview of the core problem we face, and help to adjust our priorities as a society. Data are being gathered on sources of suffering, numbers of individuals affected and estimated intensities and durations. We are also identifying some of the most promising solutions.
Guide to compassionate governance and systemic change
Our team is currently (as of summer 2023) working on an ambitious project to research, write and widely disseminate a guide to compassionate governance and systemic change. The guide will tap into the findings from a range of disciplines and extract some of the key principles and ideas needed to create a more cooperative, needs-based global decision-making system that values the wellbeing of all sentient beings. The guide will contain some core ethical principles and a vision for the future, propose rough blueprints for how we can better organise ourselves globally and a possible pathway to get there, and also make a series of concrete policy prescriptions that would be an essential part of a compassionate governance system. We also plan to draft a manifesto containing some of the guide’s key recommendations, solicit a large number of signatures and promote the manifesto widely. This project will include creative campaigns and PR events to spread the ideas and facilitate uptake.
Films and creative campaigns
Linked to the the project on compassionate governance, we plan to create short videos and a full-length documentary, and develop creative campaigns that will reach many people worldwide with the message of action-oriented compassion for human and non-human animals, and help communicate the ideas in the guide and manifesto. The film "Earthlings", for example, had a dramatic effect in raising awareness of the widespread intense suffering of animals at the hands of humans. Our goal is to inspire people with a concrete vision for a more compassionate society and how we can bring it about in practice. This concept note ties the research and drafting of a guide and manifesto with creative communication campaigns as part of a unified project to promote stable compassionate governance.
"What can be worse than experiencing intense pain without relief? I've donated to support OPIS's initiative."
- Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University
OPIS is working to prevent intense suffering through evidence-based advocacy and education, including:
- Ensuring that terminal cancer patients can get morphine
- Allowing people with cluster "suicide" headaches to legally access life-changing treatments
We are also working on more ambitious projects to spread compassion in society and promote ethical governance that prioritises the prevention of intense suffering.
To avoid PayPal fees, donations can be made directly by bank transfer or via Wise to one of our bank accounts:
Donations in Swiss Francs:
IBAN: CH56 0900 0000 1623 4862 0
Bank address: Postfinance Ltd, Mingerstrasse 20, 3030 Berne, Switzerland
Donations in Euros or other currencies:
IBAN: CH17 0900 0000 9116 4774 4
Bank address: Postfinance Ltd, Mingerstrasse 20, 3030 Berne, Switzerland
Testimonials and endorsements
“Important read on how to close the global pain divide at the national level.”
- Prof. Felicia Knaul, Chair of the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control, re: our article on our Burkina Faso initiative
“Another step forward for the cluster community – OPIS has just released a policy paper advocating for legalized access to psilocybin for the treatment of cluster headache.”
- Clusterbusters, a major patient advocacy organisation
“I cannot thank you enough.”
- Tony Taipale, President, Finnish Horton (Cluster Headache) Association
“I feel really emotional, such a poignant portrayal...it illustrates the struggle so well. Thank you so much for being our ambassador."
- J.H., cluster headache patient, re: our animated video about cluster headaches
“I am rarely speechless! Your work is astonishingly wonderful and will, I am certain, contribute to the reduction of suffering.”
- Prof. Larry Schor, cluster headache researcher, Univ. of West Georgia
Are you interested in helping to prevent and alleviate suffering in the world? Although OPIS is not currently hiring staff, we are always looking for enthusiastic people willing to contribute some of their time and expertise to projects and campaigns from whichever location they are based in (our own core team is spread between Switzerland, Spain and Canada). The work can include basic online research, writing, graphic design, video creation, advocacy campaigns and event organisation. You can contact us here - please let us know about your background and interests. We look forward to hearing from you!
We are also looking for donors and philanthropists interested in supporting creative new projects and promoting the prevention of intense suffering as our highest global priority. You can donate directly here.