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
You can read the second part of the article by clicking here
The final straw was a message concerning a proposal Christa and I had jointly made to a senior representative of a key EU government, in which a Ministry official agreed to organise a conference with the aim of analysing problems arising from the establishment of a journey limit on the transport of animals sent for the purpose of slaughter in the EU, and of identifying solutions so that the existing Regulation on transport could be reviewed and such a time limit included in it. It was a remarkable turning point in the campaign, and a golden opportunity that should have been grasped with both hands. But when I forwarded Christa the message from the Ministry and suggested that I could translate it for her over the phone, I received a response that I should submit a written summary instead, so that Michael and a recently-hired member of staff could read it, adding: “I think you should not fix any dates or meetings until you have spoken with Michael in Frankfurt” (this refers to a meeting due to take place two weeks later to discuss the progress of the office we had opened in London).
After two hours I sent the translation of the text, with my own comments and additional information to emphasise how exceptional this government’s response was. In the same email, I asked how I could possibly say ‘no’ to an invitation from the Ministry for a meeting about our own proposal without undermining the project. The relevant Member State had already been identified as a priority country for the 8hours campaign, the proposal had been internally discussed before sending it, and now that we had received a positive answer we could not afford to show less enthusiasm than the Ministry itself. I then told Christa that if there were new issues I was not aware of, we should discuss them urgently over the phone, and that stopping the development of the agreed strategy at such a crucial moment could cause great harm to the campaign.
Christa’s refusal to talk to me and the growing tension between us required a quick response. What was going on? Why were things that had been agreed only a few days before being questioned now, especially when this jeopardised our credibility with important institutional partners?
This is the reply I received from Christa the following morning:
“Dear Adolfo, this seems to be good news. Nevertheless I must insist that you put all activities on hold, until I have received the following information:
• detailed project plan re the described conferences – items only, no description
• evaluation of this project re the aim to get the 8 hours – not longer than half a page
• detailed cost plan of the described conferences and related work
When I have received this, I will decide whether Animals’ Angels will take this project on or not and let you know. Until then you have no authority to proceed and Animals’ Angels will not cover any costs without my approval of your activities. I understand that this regrettably differs from practices in the past, but I feel the responsibility towards Animals’ Angels statutes, ethics and donators to organize the activities re 8 hours more professionally or stop it altogether.
Best regards, Christa.
Founder and President Animals’ Angels”
It was a surreal situation. I held in my hands the proposal that Christa and I had co-signed, which had now been approved by the Ministry. Basically, we had issued a proposal and a governmental body had accepted it, but now we suddenly needed a new internal evaluation before moving forward!
My reply, sent 4 hours later, was as follows (excerpts):
With immediate effect, I am suspending all my activities for 8hours and Animals’ Angels. I tried to get in touch with Michael over the phone before sending this email, since according to your instructions he is the person I am supposed to talk to in relation to work/contractual issues, but I could only leave messages on his voicemails.
It is impossible to work with constant changes of plans, especially when this involves damaging 8hours’ credibility and reputation with people I am in touch with in governments, NGOs and within Animals’ Angels.
The plans for the events proposed to [X] were discussed with you and received your inputs and approval before sending them (your emails of 17 and 18 April). The level of definition of the project to date corresponds to our proposal, as per [X]’s reply.
How this fits into 8hours has been discussed and agreed over months, sometimes leaving all activities on hold until an agreement on the 2013 Plan was reached. This is contained in the 13 pages agreed at the beginning of this year, and sent to all relevant staff on 4 February with your signature, Michael’s and mine. As you know, there is also a reduced 3-page version of it, which you and Michael asked me to prepare and which was agreed on 31 January. Nevertheless, we discussed this issue again when I was drafting the proposals for [X].
I have been repeatedly asked to decrease the level of reporting, then suddenly information is no longer sufficient and I am happy to integrate it as much as you like whenever it is desired. I have done it many times and as you know I am happy to send detailed information on all activities conducted for 8hours [...]. As you know, on your request I am also adapting for 8hours the draft report template I sent to [...] on 28 February and of which you received a copy on 24 May. As requested, I am filling it with recent information related to 8hours so you can evaluate if this template works for you. Being in the middle of many activities with Parliament, Commission and Member States – of which you have been constantly informed, often asking to receive less information, e.g. your email of 23 April – this is taking a few more days (it was requested last Friday, before the Monday UK bank holiday and my trip to Dublin) but I hoped that it could constitute a plausible solution to an issue that we have been discussing so many times and with conflicting instructions.
Now, despite what was agreed in the 2013 Plan (see last point of the reduced version), and confirmed both in successive conversations and emails, it is clear that my role as the 8hours coordinator no longer is something you are happy with, since agreed plans are constantly re-discussed once we get to an advanced point of implementation (e.g. lobby efforts, meeting with the Commissioner, Malta proceedings, meetings with CVOs and ministers, etc).
I find particularly serious the allegation that the activities related to 8hours have not been conducted in a sufficiently professional way and I would like you to substantiate that claim since this is the first time I hear of it, and no specific issue has been raised either in your email or elsewhere in relation to the quality of my work.
Also, it’s at least the second time that (this time less directly) references to the fact that money spent for my work or 8hours in general is possibly wasted. As you know, when you called me three years ago I decided autonomously to reduce my fee by 30% after you said you were fine with the full fee, and since then I have declined many times your offers to increase it, so it has constantly stayed at the same level since then. Every single penny spent for 8hours has been reported for, and a basic analysis of where we were when I took over the coordination of the campaign and where we are now is enough to see what has changed for 8hours in terms of importance among the general public, European NGOs, MEPs, European Commission and now gradually Member States.
As usual, I am happy to discuss things further – we all have everybody’s phone numbers, or we can use Skype or else – but until a clear decision is reached my role is suspended. Clearly we also have a meeting scheduled for 13 June, where we can add to the agenda issues related to 8hours, rather than focusing on the evaluation of the London office only, but in my opinion freezing activities for ten days would not be in the interest of the animals, since we need to respond quickly to some requests by institutions and others.
The message I will ask [...] to convey until a decision is made is that I am currently unavailable, without providing further details. This in my opinion leaves space for the broadest possible spectrum of outcomes of our discussion.
Last but not least. Dear [...], I am sorry for copying you in, as you have just started and I appreciate that all this can sound quite confusing and worrying for you, but since you received the previous message which described my work in pretty objectionable terms I could not avoid sending you the answer too.
You can read the full article by clicking here