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We must do better.

My experiences working at Farm Animal Rights Movement for Alex Hershaft.

TW: sexual harassment, emotional abuse, self-harm and suicidal ideation

Disclaimer: Everything below is my own experiences, feelings and opinions.

If you would like more information, including emails, check the Timeline page

Writing this has to be one of the most painful things I have ever done. I feel I have an obligation to share my experiences dealing with Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), the Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC) and the FARM Board of Directors (of which Alex Hershaft is president). My desire is not to ruin any person’s reputation but to inform people about toxic leadership, hostile work environments, sexual harassment and a Board of Directors that failed to hold anyone accountable. This is a warning, from which I hope the movement can learn, so we may treat activists and employees better and ensure that we are saving animals rather than trying to navigate through hostile work situations. I also hope this can help protect other activist who might work with FARM.

I am fully aware that I am not the first to have these experiences, nor, sadly, will I be the last and it does not only occur in one organization. I have read and heard many experiences from many organizations about these sorts of things, from small groups to the large ones. I know how challenging these experiences can be to navigate, how much it impacts our activism, and our own well-being. Please know you are not alone, and that there are people who care for you. I see you and I will listen and help in anyway that I can. We must do better.

I have tried to keep things private, as anyone who knows me knows I am not a public person, but I cannot in good conscience walk away silently.

Last updated: 9/25/2020

Background

My name is Ethan Eldreth. I started work at Farm Animal Rights Movement under the leadership of Alex Hershaft in October 2013 when I was hired after graduating college that same year in May. My initial position was administrative assistant, though I helped with various things, including tech issues. I was completely new to the animal rights movement, nonprofits, and everything related to both. When I was hired (and as of my leaving), FARM’s office was inside of Alex’s house. From the time I was hired until April 2018, I spent the majority of my life inside Alex’s house, even living there from October 2014 until August 2015. I went mostly remote after that but still had regular visits to fix computer issues and meet with Alex until March 2020, when COVID-19 became a threat. He has two apartments set up–one in his basement and a small room with a kitchenette and bathroom next to what was used as the main office. I picked up more responsibilities as my capabilities became realized, so much so that my current title as of leaving was honestly unknown to me since I have done so much. For those that don’t know who Alex Hershaft is, he is a Holocaust survivor and co-founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement. I do recognize the good things he has done for the movement and for the animals; however, I am also in a position to recognize the ways in which he has been harmful to people and how his behavior distorts his goal to end all oppression. You can quickly find more about him by a simple search of his name. There is also a 2018 article title “Alex Hershaft: An Animal Rights Pioneer, with a #MeToo Problem” and the very recent article “The Fall of an Animal-Rights Pioneer“, which both have a lot of important background information on the issues I will be speaking to in depth.

Toxic Workplace Environment

During my first year at FARM I learned a lot about the movement and about Alex’s reputation for being hard to work with; however, I believe it does go much deeper than him just being a difficult boss. It became evident a few months after I was hired that Alex is an extremely toxic boss who fostered a toxic work environment. I felt that this came to be the behavior I expected of Alex and honestly, I was afraid of him, though I never felt physically threatened by him. I got nervous when he would call me to his office, anxious when I saw an email from him and really didn’t like how he made me feel daily. As mentioned, when I came in as a new hire, I wasn’t just new at FARM but also new to the movement and had no inside knowledge. I felt at the time the work I was doing for animals was more important than anything that was happening to me. I can’t speak for my co-workers but I would guess we all shared similar feelings–that our work was more important than the workplace environment and more important than trying to fight it.

I felt that Alex would fire and hire people on his own. On a few occasions, someone would disagree with Alex, and then there would be discussions about replacing them because they weren’t doing their job. Usually, this ended up with someone leaving FARM. I was scared because I felt that Alex always had the final say, even if management disagreed. I knew this because I could hear management meetings from my office. It was really no secret that the entire office could hear things that I believe should have been private. I think Alex knew and simply did not care. There was no door to his office and it was next to the communal kitchen and main office; staff could not help but overhear. He would suggest that people were not doing their job even if they were and other managers disagreed.

At one point, I was worried this had become the case for me when I overheard meetings discussing my work, constantly asking what I was doing and at one point trying to see if another organization would hire me. I felt terrible each time I heard these things about me because I never felt I was slacking and was always meeting deadlines. I felt I was failing my co-workers and more importantly the animals. I would try to put on this facade that I didn’t care what he said, or that I knew my co-workers and managers supported me and thought I was doing a good job. The issue was that it did impact my work and my confidence. I got extremely nervous of being fired and being unable to get a new job. I was lucky enough to have strong support during this time. Soon, the situation changed and Alex ended up needing me even more.

In just one year after Alex had been confronted on various issues after a conference (mostly his toxic behavior), everyone who had confronted him either left or was forced out. I think it was around 10 people, maybe more in that year alone. Alex Hershaft created an extremely toxic environment and there was not much staff could do besides get fired, quit or be pushed out. A lot of my very talented coworkers only wanted to do what was best for animals and tried to make things there work for as long as they could. I felt Alex could fire anyone at any time for any reason, and we all knew it, whether we personally experienced it or not.

Some people who worked for him also rented their apartments/homes from him, including me. So in a way he was controlling both my job and my livelihood. When I lived at FARM, I was also paying Alex for rent and utilities each month. I felt, during that time, that had I done anything wrong in his eyes I could have potentially lost both.

Sexual Harassment in the FARM Office

One evening a few weeks after becoming an employee at FARM, I was staying late to finish a project. It was not uncommon as Alex had told everyone the hours we could come in was from 9 am until 9 pm. I heard noises coming from downstairs (my office was on the upper level) and didn’t think much of it at first. The noises continued, so I went to the top of the stairs to hear more clearly. I heard what sounded like moaning; I listened longer and heard slapping, gagging and various other noises. It was all coming from Alex’s office, but I was still well within office hours. Being new, I figured Alex had forgotten I was there. I believe I was the last person in the office and there was an unspoken rule to let him know we were leaving by yelling goodnight to him. He also has a large mirror situated on the wall across from his desk; I was never explicitly told why and can only assume it was to see who was coming and going into the house or to his office. I often used it to see what he was doing before approaching his office. I returned to my room, packed my things up quickly and left out the front door while the noises continued coming from his office. I tried to shut the door loudly to let him know that I was still there and as a reminder to be more careful in the future. 

It was shortly after that incident that Alex had an issue with his computer. Being one of the tech people, I needed to fix it. While sitting in his chair, at his desk, using his keyboard and mouse to fix the issues, I discovered vast amounts of pornography-related viruses and pornography that had been left open. I felt extremely uncomfortable by the situation he had put me in; all I wanted to do was to leave. This was both his personal computer and work computer, and I was obligated to fix or work on it when he asked (because it was within office hours, on a work computer, and he was my boss). His computer was also the organization’s database where all the working files, archives and website files were stored. The issue came down to a fundamental shortcoming of his management and lack of distinction between what is FARM’s and what is Alex’s. Me working on his computer and inadvertently seeing porn via tabs/viruses/helping with storage issues/general tech support continued throughout my years at FARM.

I continued working there, and eventually I moved into Alex’s house one year after working at FARM. This was a financial necessity for me, as my lease was ending and my apartment management was increasing my rent. At that time I was not making enough money to continue at my apartment; I also searched for many different options, but everything was outside my price range and Alex gave discounts to staff members.

His computer had an electrical surge sometime around May 2015 and he had to purchase a new one. While out on a walk with my dog in the neighborhood on the weekend, Alex jogged by and stopped me. He asked me to transfer his hard drive to a new, larger one. I hesitantly said it would be no problem, and he told me to come into the office (even though I lived at Alex’s house, I was in a separate room and was not allowed into the FARM office on weekends). I thought this was strictly related to work, and that the urgency was because it was hindering his ability to work.  I went into the office a little later that day and he gave me the old hard drive, the new hard drive, and a list of contents on the old one. Upon reading the list and plugging in the hard drive to transfer, I discovered I had been given his personal hard drive full of pornographic materials. There were folders, explicitly labeled with the type of content, some which made me extremely uncomfortable, with photos and videos. On a yellow sheet of paper that had been included was a list of the hard drive’s contents. He suggested after the transfer to make sure all content listed on the sheet of paper was accounted for before giving it back to him. I followed orders as I felt otherwise I would be risking my job and livelihood. The explicit nature of the content and category names made me feel extremely uncomfortable and dirty.

Another instance that I recall is that he would sometimes take plastic poster boards that FARM had used for its outreach programs and on the back would tape on explicit erotic terms dealing with S/M (Sadism/Masochism). On one occasion the signs were left in plain view of the office staff, during office hours, and on the back of FARM property.

At the 2015 Animal Rights National Conference in Alexandria, VA, he mentioned masturbating in our conference office in front of multiple staff members – including me. In fact, he was actually talking to a member of our conference A/V team when he brought it up. I was horrified when I heard it and I know that at least one other staff member also was deeply affected by this.

The following incident is what has affected me the most. I do believe it is again an issue with the blurred boundaries of FARM and Alex and that he cannot understand how his actions could affect another person. However, these “blurred boundaries” cannot excuse the misconduct, as it was always his choice to have FARM run out of his home (and he actively fought against moving FARM to a separate office).

In preparation for our 2017 conference, we had a meeting at the hotel at 1:00 pm. We were running late and no one had seen Alex all day and it was already around 12:30 pm. Since no one had seen or heard him, I knocked on the door to his bedroom and asked if he was ok. There was no answer, so I knocked multiple times loudly. He eventually opened the door to answer my knocks, and he was fully nude. He was groggy and started asking me questions, like what time it was and why I was waking him up. I admit I was shocked and I just focused on his face and answered the questions. He then suggested that the meeting was tomorrow, which I corrected and said that it was for today. He said he would get ready and closed the door. A couple minutes later, he came back out of his bedroom with just his underwear and went to another office that I had gone to and said we needed to reschedule the meeting for a later time. 

On another occasion, he came into the house, running late for a meeting he was having with managers. I heard him go into his room and the shower came on (his bedroom had his own bathroom). I heard his door open again and turned to look, I guess instinctively, since I heard a door opening. He was standing in his doorway, fully nude when I looked at the door. I quickly turned away. He never acknowledged me seeing him or said anything to me. I did tell management at the time and left because I felt extremely uncomfortable and had an anxiety attack. The next day management brought the incident to his attention, and he claimed he didn’t remember doing that and that he would try not to do it again.  

There were actually various other times that I recall less clearly on when they happened, simply because for a while he was using the office bathroom shower (which was just down the hall from my office) and he could come out of the shower either not knowing I was there or not caring and have just a towel on or rush into his room holding the towel over his genitals.

To think this was just an office issue is also not exactly true. On multiple occasions and including as of my exit on August 14, 2020, there was (and may still be) pornographic material on the “FARM server,” which is where all FARM files are stored and accessed by the entire staff. This server used to be a separate hard drive on Alex’s computer but was moved to a new computer when his had become defunct in 2015. On several occasions I had found and deleted pornographic materials from the FARM server. A few days before I had left, I actually found a text-based pornographic story that had a created date of 2005. Normally, I would delete it; however, in this instance I told the FARM Board of Directors and an investigator that had been hired. I did not hear anything back and could not access the server before I left.

I want to note here that others were affected by some of these indiscretions as well as others that I have experienced.

More Blurred Lines Between Professional and Personal

At the 2018 conference after a session he used to do but was not permitted to speak that year, he used the Q&A not only to correct the panelist, but when the mic dropped he mentioned his “manhood”. Here is the audio of that.

At his 80th birthday party event in D.C. (which was in 2014, still within my first year working at FARM), he actually invited personal friends, which seems completely reasonable. However, one brought with her a bag of cherries and went around telling people that Alex had “popped her cherry” and then would eat them. Mind you, this was a FARM event, people paid tickets and we were fundraising for FARM. 

Another instance was at AR2015, I and many others witnessed Alex making out with someone very aggressively in the hotel foyer on Sunday night when we were holding the closing party. He (and she) were in plain view of staff members, attendees (including speakers and staff members of other organizations). I do believe it was consensual, and they eventually did leave together, but I thought it was very  unprofessional.

How I Have Been Affected

I can say that I never felt physically threatened by Alex or his actions; however, I did and still to this day suffer from my experiences with Alex in serious ways. I believe this emotional toll was brought on by a combination of his toxic behavior and sexual harassment, both leading to a hostile work environment and showing zero acknowledgement or remorse. I personally know he had been told multiple times by multiple people about the instances I highlighted above that I personally experienced.

In 2017, I went to a psychologist because I was having anxiety attacks and thoughts of self-harm and suicide. This was not the first time I have experienced these since 2013, but they got noticeably more extreme. I would suffer anxiety attacks going into the office and interacting with Alex. It was around that time that I had also been informed by my manager that Alex was upset with me because I had been avoiding him, not wanting to interact with him, and wanting to work remotely.

It brings me great pain to relive these experiences in my head and to share them, especially this next part. If you are reading this, again, I warn that the next part contains self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

During my time at FARM and remaining still today, I think about suicide daily (I have passive suicidal ideations, meaning I think about it but have no plans to act on it). I also used to regularly cut myself and have thoughts of self-harm.

To be transparent, I may have suffered from depression before joining FARM in 2013 and also have unpleasant memories of something that happened to me when I was younger. However, I do believe my depression and anxiety have been magnified (if they existed at all before 2013) and started to include thoughts of self-harm and suicide in the last seven years due in part to Alex’s actions. My therapist suggested as much and also has suggested since my first session that I remove myself from the situation so that I can begin to heal. I have also needed to be on antidepressants for the last three years and tried to get counseling to help with my self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Looking back, it felt as if each time something happened I tried to not think about it or pretend it didn’t affect me as much as it really was. I wanted to just run away from it all, but I rationalized it as me doing it for the animals and that what he was doing couldn’t possibly affect me as much as it really did. I try to think that he never really meant any of it, or that I am weak for letting it get to me, but I no longer believe this to be true.

I very much expected my work life to be a safe environment. I thought the work I was doing for animals was the most important job I could be doing with my time and resources. While I had no expectations of being valued, I did expect to be safe and to feel secure in my work environment; however, this was not the case, and I was regularly confronted with hostile working conditions. When I was put into these situations that were no fault of my own, I felt unsafe, unsupported, and that my livelihood was vulnerable.

I also felt this way for my co-workers who worked in the office with me, and I know experiences they had were difficult too.

I also feel a great deal of remorse for staying as long as I did and for not speaking up or leaving earlier. I take full responsibility for this and wish I could change it. I know I shouldn’t (or at least I’m told I shouldn’t), but I do. This is something that will live with me forever.

Resigning from FARM and the Investigation

On June 5, 2020, I gave my two weeks’ notice that I would no longer be working on general FARM tasks and would only be working on the Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC), at the time and still currently a program of FARM. There had been a completely separate budget set up for the ARNC, with my salary covered for the year. In doing this, I took a 1/3 pay cut. I still remained employed at FARM, though this was often brought up by the Board, Alex and the new FARM Executive Director, Eric Lindstrom. In my final week of performing my general FARM tasks, I had a renewed feeling like I had to tell the Board again of the issues I had faced. It was important because I knew someone would be replacing me as the “tech person” at FARM and would most likely experience some of the things I had. This is when I decided to let the Board know, to protect future FARM employees so that the mission of FARM could be solely focused on saving animals and not dealing with internal strife. This was not the first time I had alerted the Board to these issues, I actually emailed them in early 2018. You can read that in my timeline here.

After sending this email, I was extremely anxious and nervous because I knew it would eventually get to Alex. The emails I did receive back, though not from all Board members, were supportive. I also scheduled a phone call with three of the four Board members the following Sunday to discuss. In the phone call, I encouraged them to hire an independent investigator, as I had asked for in the email. There had been some reluctance since they did not want it to be public. I believe there was a small effort for the Board to handle it themselves and investigate. However, I had suggested the best course was actually an independent investigator who would do a more comprehensive investigation that included current and past employees to better understand the scope of the problems to make informed decisions. I had hoped it would also be able to show that this wasn’t just a one-time instance and instead a pattern of misconduct by the most powerful person at FARM, Alex Hershaft. I also thought it would be best for them to protect themselves, which I did tell them and had told them for the past two years.

After that meeting, it was decided that a private independent investigation would go forward. I was encouraged by this at the time but also extremely nervous. I didn’t know the full process and of what would come of it all, but I did want to be as helpful as I could. I truly did not want this to happen to anyone else.

Eventually, I heard that a firm was to be hired and the investigation would take place. I had called to get a few more details and was given the investigator’s number so that I could call and ask questions about the process. I also let the investigator and the Board know that I feared retribution for bringing these issues to the Board’s attention and asked if my job was in jeopardy. I felt this way since I had experienced how Alex pushed employees out before who had spoken up. I also knew that he would be extremely upset about all this. As for the Board response, they suggested that they were trying to reach a conclusion that was fair for all parties involved. The investigator did tell me retribution for this type of thing was illegal and at one point the Board did suggest that Alex had told them he had no plans to fire me. As far as the Board’s response, I don’t recall anything specific, though I do know they were against any retaliation. The issue was not that I was worried about them, but more so Alex.

I also found out that Alex had actually emailed all the staff except for me that I had filed a complaint against him with the Board and that someone would be calling each of them to ask questions. I was horrified and upset that this happened but honestly not surprised. To my knowledge, the Board had never asked Alex not to communicate with the staff about the complaint or the investigation, just not to communicate with me.

The next day, the Board officially told the staff, without naming me, and let them all know that their jobs would not be impacted, and that it was all in the best interest of FARM. I let the investigator and the Board know that I had been informed that Alex had emailed the staff. The only thing that I heard was that it was terrible and they wished it hadn’t happened. I was not informed if Alex was reprimanded for doing so or if the people who received the email got reassurance that nothing would happen if they spoke honestly with the investigator. I figured the current staff, being very small, would feel pressured to not talk honestly about Alex if they had experienced anything like I had. Also, to my knowledge, at that time, neither I nor anyone on the staff was informed who would see the final report, even though I had asked multiple times.

The Board meeting had been set for July 7, 2020, which would discuss the report and moving forward. I found out two days later that, after I emailed the Board and investigators on the 7th, the Board meeting was actually postponed till July 21, 2020. 

One of the first concerns I ran into was just how disorganized and naive the Board was and how little they knew. I asked the investigator who would get the report who controls who is interviewed and who set the parameters on how long each interview was and how many there would be. I was informed that it was entirely up to the Board, since they were the ones paying the bill. The investigator could suggest things, like additional people to interview, but it all had to be approved. I was told I would be interviewed for 45 to 60 minutes (as would all current full-time staff), while part-time staff would have 15 to 30 minutes. As for who would get the report, the investigator told me that they would only send it to the Board liaison and that it would be password-protected and that password would, again, only be sent to that one Board member. After that, it was up to the Board to decide who would see it.

Eventually, the investigation did come to a conclusion, though I felt my concerns were not addressed. To my knowledge, only three or four additional people who were former employees were added to the list. I do not know who these people are, and I’m unsure if Alex was ever told who they were. I had suggested a few people, but also suggested a wider scope in general. The people I had suggested were just ones whom I had told at the time when it happened or witnessed things with me or on their own and told me. I do not know if any of the people I suggested were interviewed or if Alex was able to suggest anyone. At some points in FARM history, while I was there, there were about 25 to 30 staff members, and when the investigation happened, there were only three full-time employees and four part-time employees. I was hopeful that the investigation would have been wider in scope to include a larger number of past staff experiences with Alex.

In conclusion, I was told a report had been submitted to the Board on July 17, 2020, one month after my initial complaint. I emailed to ask for updates and was sent the recommendations that the investigator had attached to the report. I was asked to keep these recommendations confidential. I can say that they really were not much aside from what a healthy organization should already have set up. I was shocked that none of the recommendations had anything to do specifically with repercussions to Alex for his misconduct. Instead, they focused generally on policies that they felt FARM was missing.

With this news, I emailed the Board requesting what actually had been done with the recommendations and if they had future plans. We set up a time to talk and I was filled in that some of the recommendations had been adopted and that they had plans to do more. I was glad these steps were being taken, though I felt they were not enough and that they had simply taken too long. I spoke to the Board members for an hour and they had to go, so I requested we set up another time to talk. It was expressed that finding a time to talk that week was challenging and email was better. After that I sent the following email:

In response, I got this email two days later

Upset that I felt I had been lied to, that I had to tell them yet again that I was still employed by FARM and that I felt nothing of substance was being done, I emailed them back. By “nothing of substance” I mean that I felt I had heard that certain policies had been adopted by the Board; I, as a staff member, never received any notification of the policies that were said to have been adopted. These are things like a sexual harassment policy, a work-from-home policy and a policy about not using FARM resources to promote individual employee opinions. These are the things that were relayed to me by board members. They were policies that I was told were adopted at the July 21, 2020, Board meeting; however, it was now August 7, 2020, and I had not received any new policies. I also felt they were not being enforced by the board, since Alex’s blog was still being promoted on FARM’s social media and email lists. 

I decided to respond with counterpoints to each of the above points, as I felt it was important to note that I felt there simply was not enough being done. I felt, at least from what I had been told and could tell, policies had not been sent to the staff and nothing was being enforced. The email is below:

After no response for five days and feeling as if the Board ultimately would do nothing, I decided to resign on August 14, 2020. After my resignation, which I had sent to the Board, minus Alex, I did not get a response for a bit. What I did get was an email from Eric Lindstrom, the new Executive Director of FARM, one day after I sent my resignation (August 15, 2020) suggesting that I had resigned June 5, 2020, from FARM and that I had two paths available. These were “1) You [Ethan] are no longer are employed by FARM (or ARC) effective immediately (assuming you’re done with the last details of the ARC) and we would send over to have you sign a separation agreement. We can also offer a severance package since you’ve been such a valuable employee for so many years. 2) You [Ethan] decide you WANT to work for FARM (under my supervision) and we send over a new contract stating the hourly rate and expected number of hours per week.”

It also suggested that “To address your allegations, the board took them very seriously and, as you know, hired CSI to conduct an investigation, b) CSI did not report a finding of sexual harassment, but made four precautionary recommendations (which were forwarded to you by Seth from my understanding), c) The board adopted these recommendations at their meeting on July 21st (people working from home, no adult material on FARM computers, and development of a workplace harassment policy).”

I believe this to be a lie, as I was told CSI investigators DID NOT report what Eric suggested here. It is my understanding that they would not comment on whether it was or was not, and that they were simply gathering facts for the Board. The Board had suggested that they actually hired another attorney in Maryland to review the report for that very reason. Also, “precautionary recommendations” for something that I had already experienced? And again, to my knowledge, not all were adopted and actually implemented in any functional way, though I hope they are now. I did not respond to this email. 

I received a response from the Board, on August 16, 2020 (two days after I sent my resignation), letting me know that they did receive my resignation but requesting that I  “Please do not send out further for now. We will be back in touch with you later this week.” I was feeling bad the next day when Eric emailed again requesting that I call him. I certainly did not want to be unfair to the FARM staff who were not alerted to my resignation, so I requested that the Board let Alex and Eric know. It was once again requested that I give the Board some time. The next morning the Board accepted my resignation and told me they would let Eric and Alex know. I’ve not been in contact with the Board or Alex since. 

Thoughts on the Board

I hope this can be a lesson for Board members across the movement. You need to do better, and if you are not willing to fulfill your role as a Board member, please leave the board you are on, or don’t accept an invitation to join one to begin with. Nonprofit Boards of Directors are an integral part of an organization, by design, and should be treated as such. I actually feel that the FARM Board was supportive of me, believed me, and said encouraging things, but when the time came to actually make decisive actions, they failed.

An important note: Alex Hershaft has been and still is the President of Farm Animal Rights Movement’s Board of Directors.

I’d like to reiterate that I have no qualms with the Board members (aside from Alex) personally, though I do seriously feel they have failed FARM, the Animal Rights National Conference, the employees of each of these, and me. I do not want to take away from all the amazing things they have done or will do in any way, but I do want to call attention to their mishandling of years of complaints against Alex, the abdication of their responsibility to the employees and organizations, and how they left me feeling utterly unsupported.

Multiple times after the investigation had started, I expressed my concerns to them, both in emails and on phone calls. I was reassured each time that I was being listened to, but I didn’t feel anything was actually happening. I felt that select members of the Board were saying supportive things but not following through with their actions. I do believe they believed me; I don’t think they really had a choice since, according to them, Alex did not deny these things could have happened, except for one incident. Nothing else was really being contested.

One of my main concerns was the entire scope of the investigation and how much it was being controlled by the Board and maybe Alex himself. I assume, as Alex is both the President of FARM and the Board, that he was involved in payments, though I was not and am still not certain of this. But the very fact that I was never really clear is something I take issue with. I was told the investigation would happen, even if the Board members had to pay for it; however, I’m not entirely sure how much they wanted to pay for or find out since they did limit the investigator.

As for the outcome, to my knowledge there have been no repercussions to Alex for his misconduct. The investigator’s report was not shared with me, so I can only imagine what was found, but based on my experiences alone, I felt there should have been some consequences. I feel that the only one who suffered any repercussions for Alex’s misconduct is me and employees who had left due to the toxic work environment. In order to go remote more and go into the office less, I moved an hour away, leaving my apartment and paying more for my current living arrangement. I started going to therapy and paying for that and medication (plus health insurance). In June, I resigned from part of my duties, losing one-third of my salary and risking losing the other part of my salary by coming forward and also with the plans up in the air. 

It was an extremely difficult time for me, especially after the conference had been canceled, and it felt as if the Board did not consider me to be an employee of FARM. Alex had been pressuring for my removal, and I was effectively being off-boarded from my position while still intending to stay. These are things that the Board had been made aware of yet, to my knowledge, did not do anything to help me. 

I felt like I was a hindrance to the Board, like they felt bad for me and wanted to help, but also that they were just volunteers and too busy. I truly wish they would have taken their obligations seriously. I understand that they are unpaid volunteers, that they have their own jobs and busy schedules, but I also understand the commitment they made to FARM and the employees. While I felt they believed my experiences and wanted to try to help, I cannot for any reason figure out why they didn’t. 

When I left, after seven years of what I believe was good work, I got nothing. I did not apply for unemployment or intend to because I wasn’t even sure I would be able to since I resigned and worried FARM would fight it. I received no compensation for the medical treatment I had and continue to have. I am not complaining here, or playing a victim, I’m merely stating facts. At the end of the day my number one desire for the animal right movement is that those who join any Board of Directors should take their obligations seriously and recognize that doing otherwise only hurts activists, the movement and, in turn, the animals. The other is that people are held accountable for what they do, and aren’t just given a free pass. There are so many men that have done awful things, and yet still get immense support while others get nothing. I truly feel we must do better for the animals.

If you are interested in the timeline of events with emails, I put together a separate page here.

If for some reason you would like to email me, you can do so at ethan@helpexe.com.

3 Comments

  1. Lisa Qualls

    Ethan, you are so brave! And smart!

    I thank you for the amazing work you have done and for trying so hard to help FARM do the right thing. Yes, The Board did fail and should be very ashamed. You, and other employees, were sexually abused, the “investigation” sounds like a farce, I will never support FARM again.

    Ethan, I hope you are able to heal and I hope that a good org hires you and you are able to work for those who are not human again.

    Reply
  2. Former FARMer

    Sent you an email to the above address. I’m a former FARM employee with similar experiences with AH who just ran across your story and I would be willing to share my own. Should you want to have more evidence that this behavior was an ongoing problem, please contact me.

    Reply
    • Ethan

      Hello, can you email me again, I never got anything, sorry about that. I would love to chat with you.

      Reply

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