The publication of this article yesterday (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.
What happened with the 8hours campaign?
What happened with the 8hours campaign? And even more importantly, what is going to happen with it?
When I ended my work as coordinator of 8hours on 4 June, many activities were under way, important events were scheduled in the 8hours calendar, and some incredible new developments promised to open up unexpected opportunities to finally bring to an end the tragedy of long-distance live transport in Europe.
What went right?
I would say that during my time as the 8hours coordinator, which began in April 2011, some important targets were achieved, and I am enormously grateful to the many colleagues who supported my work and to the countless organisations, citizens and politicians around Europe who made the campaign a priority in their work and voluntary activities.
In the two years up to April 2011, a total of 211,544 signatures had been collected for the 8hours petition – a respectable number, but far short of the original 1 million target. On 3 January 2012 we went past 1 million, and in June 2012 an amazing 1,103,248 signatures were handed in to the European Commissioner for Health.
When I started, the list of supportive Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) contained fewer than ten names. Now the names of over 140 supportive MEPs are listed on the 8hours website. Supporting animal welfare organisations had been present in 7 or 8 EU Member States. Now the 8hours website lists 114 organisations from 23 countries (22 EU Member States plus Switzerland).
In March 2012, the Written Declaration tabled in the European Parliament was adopted with the signatures of over 395 MEPs.
Previously, contacts with the European Commission in relation to 8hours had scarcely been in place, but since a meeting in March 2013 a proper dialogue had started after months of disagreement, which also led us to organise a conference in Malta to ask the then Commissioner, John Dalli, to comply with his promise to propose a review of the rules on live animal transport. When I left the coordination of 8hours, the proceedings of the Malta conference were ready for publication.
Meetings with important representatives of EU Member States’ competent ministries had started, and the first responses we received were more than promising.
In short, over the last couple of years 8hours had become the main animal welfare campaign in Europe. It was constantly making progress and broadening the support for a review of the existing Regulation on transport. A maximum 8-hour journey limit for animals sent for the purpose of slaughter was no longer a tantalising mirage, but was steadily becoming an achievable reality.
What went wrong?
Since 4 June, when I had to leave the coordination of 8hours, some unpleasant messages regarding me and my work have been circulated by Animals’ Angels, while 8hours seems to have dropped off the radar. All news about 8hours has disappeared from the Animals’ Angels website, and even on the 8hours website the last entry in the blog dates back to 3 June.
I don’t know what Animals’ Angels plan to do with 8hours, but I do know the time has come for me to offer my version of what happened to whoever is interested in reading it. I have made many attempts to salvage the situation and thereby avoid having to write and circulate this public explanation. However, not only does it seem that 8hours has been killed off by Animals’ Angels for no apparent reason, but various forms of harassment are continuing towards me: a payment for my work and expenses related to 8hours has been withheld, and I continue to receive insulting emails.
As an animal welfare consultant, my ability to work effectively depends to a large extent on the trust others place in me, and for this reason I cannot let false allegations go unchallenged. Therefore, for the first time in my life, I have resorted to discussing these matters with a lawyer because there seems to be no other way to stop the untrue and intolerable allegations made by Animals’ Angels, more specifically by its Director, Michael Blanke, and its Founder and President, Christa Blanke. It would be pointless for me to appeal to the Animals’ Angels board to stop these actions, because as far as I know that body is currently composed of Christa and Michael Blanke themselves (both also paid by the organisation) and their son, Christopher. Even if the latter wished to discuss these matters (I have no idea if he does), Christa and Michael would always have a majority to endorse their own behaviour.
As I have stated numerous times to Michael Blanke by email over the last few weeks and to other members of staff by email and over the phone, I simply want all my contacts with Animals’ Angels to end for good. This could easily be achieved by stopping the distribution of any malicious messages about me or my work, and by paying an overdue invoice. That unpaid invoice initially lay forgotten on some desk in Frankfurt (a more recent invoice has been paid) and is currently being used to exert unjustifiable pressure on me now that I am no longer working with Animals’ Angels. At first I was told the invoice had been processed and then that someone was dealing with it. After 6 weeks during which, as a matter of courtesy, I continued to answer additional information requests from Animals’ Angels even though I was no longer being paid by them, I learnt that in fact the overdue invoice had never been processed, but instead had been kept there all that time, perhaps with the intention of using it to put pressure on me. Justice, fairness and honesty are what NGOs are fighting for, right?
I hope this will be the final chapter in this sorry saga in which the interests of the animals we all claim to care about are being tragically neglected. If this turns out not be the end of the matter, I will respond on this website to any further derogatory messages circulated by Animals’ Angels and I will publish excerpts of emails which will make it clear to everyone where the truth lies.
This article is already fairly long, so I have decided to omit some details which would lend further support to my account. However, these additional details – and supporting documentation – will be included in future articles if Animals’ Angels circulate further derogatory messages about me. These articles will be regularly flagged up on the AnimalWelfareAndTrade Facebook page, on the @sansolini Twitter page, and in the AnimalWelfareAndTrade Newsletter too.
You can read the full article by clicking here