The publication of this article on 7 August received a lot of attention and a very high number of viewings. In consideration of its length, I am therefore re-publishing the same text divided into four parts, which will be posted over four consecutive days on the AWAT Facebook and Twitter pages.
You can read the first part of the article by clicking here
Why did I have to leave 8hours?
It has been a huge disappointment to see the 8hours campaign undermined by its own sponsors at such a crucial stage, but I found myself in a bizarre situation in which the more 8hours achieved, the more Christa Blanke saw me and the campaign itself as enemies or competitors. And yet Animals’ Angels was paying all the expenses of the campaign – including my fees – so they must have been happy with my work (‘they’ meaning Christa and Michael, who have total control over the organisation).
In every work relationship there are some things you like and others you dislike. Discussions and disagreements are quite normal. But there should also be courtesy, honesty and an ability to acknowledge mistakes, and when agreements are made they should be respected.
Sadly, over the last six months we gradually got to a point where my work was constantly under attack and I started to receive insulting emails. Important institutional contacts and crucial initiatives were in danger of being irretrievably undermined, and so were the hopes that animals would be spared the suffering of long-distance transport.
Powerful European lobbies had tried and failed to undermine the 8hours campaign over the last couple of years, but now the threat was emerging from within. After months of tension, I had no choice but to leave the coordination of the campaign in the hands of the person – Christa Blanke – who had come to consider herself its coordinator, despite what she and her husband had approved at the end of January 2013 regarding the Head of 8hours: “that’s you, Adolfo. You will have to take on the responsibility for most of 8hours blood, sweat, toil and tears – and of course rewards. You will have to carry the campaign without substantial help from Frankfurt, or from us. We know that you are capable of this and we respect you a lot for it”.
Those lines are part of the shortened version of the 2013 Plan for 8hours, which took several weeks to agree while most 8hours activities were kept on hold, including some institutional contacts. Yet more time was spent reducing the 13-page plan – approved by Michael Blanke on his and Christa’s behalf and shared with colleagues – to a 3-page version for Michael and Christa’s use only.
Early 2013 was an especially busy period for me: I was drafting the 2013 Plan, continuing to coordinate 8hours, and setting up a joint Animals’ Angels – AnimalWelfareAndTrade office in London. On 24 January I suddenly received a request from the Animals’ Angels office in Frankfurt to attach an hour-by-hour report of my activities to all my future invoices, because that was what German law required for payments to consultants. I found that request very unusual, and I had certainly never been asked to do anything like that for other organisations, but nevertheless I immediately responded positively. Forty minutes later, I was asked to extend that hourly breakdown to the previous six months too, which would involve going through all my emails and phone bills to remind myself whom I was talking or writing to at any particular time. I agreed to that request too, merely asking what the deadline would be for this time-consuming piece of work. 8 March was the answer.
On 25 January I submitted a sample report relating to the first days of the previous 6 months to check that it was satisfactory. For a single day, the following activities were listed: “Preparation of Malta conference, including web registration issues; Drafting of conference press release and call for press conference; Contacts with EU Commission in relation to Dalli’s acceptance of our invitation, Times of Malta for updated advert, MEPs, NGOs, conference speakers, potential employee for London office; Contacts in view of September lobby activities and 8hours MEP meeting; Conference budget issues”.
On 7 February Michael Blanke insisted that I had to present a more detailed report, saying that Animals’ Angels “will have all sorts of problems if you do not specify more”. In fact, he went even further than before, saying that for the future “a breakdown to half hours will do, quarter hours are even better”! Every 15 minutes? What would be the point of such a report? It would not explain anything about my activities, but merely list ‘calls to w or x’, ‘email to y or z’, with no meaningful details.
On 12 February I sent Michael a proposal for reporting which I have used with several other organisations over the years, which describes activities chapter by chapter, makes it possible to reference relevant documents, and provides a way to both check progress and share information with other staff if necessary. On 28 February I was asked to send the same template to another member of staff, and it all died there. On 25 May I sent it again to Christa Blanke, who said that nobody had sent it to her at the time, and asked me to adapt it for 8hours. Was it the tax office I had to inform about my activities every 15 minutes, or Christa? Who knows. Incidentally, by the time I left nobody had yet responded to my alternative proposal based on activity reports rather than random names. Meanwhile, even the requirement for hourly reports ended when I started invoicing on behalf of Animal Welfare And Trade Ltd.
Although I had no alternative but to leave, it would have been my wish to do so in the fastest and least dramatic way possible, so as to allow Christa – who in a message of 5 June wrote, “I am the boss of Animals’ Angels and the boss of the 8 hours [sic] campaign” – to organise 8hours in the way she wanted.
In the days before 4 June, I asked Christa to explain her derogatory messages about my work, which had even been circulated to new members of staff who had never met me or been involved in any 8hours-related activities. No explanation was ever received, and the insults did not stop there.
You can read the full article by clicking here