TW: Sexual Harassment, Sexually Explicit Language, Depression
Responding to Recent Actions by Alex Hershaft, FARM and ARNC
Above is a statement written by Alex Hershaft, the president of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and the Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC). As much as I wish to move past this toxic part of my life, I cannot remain silent while he (and by extension the board and staff of both of these entities) tries to discredit me.
I am a former employee of FARM who recently reported instances of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment to FARM’s board of directors , so it is possible Alex is referring to me when referencing the “deeply disturbed former employee.” For more background, you can read My Story of Sexual Harassment working for Alex Hershaft and The Board of Directors Failed Me -Sexual Harassment at Farm Animal Rights Movement.
On Thursday, April 22, 2021, Alex Hershaft publicly posted the above statement in a comment to Carol Adam’s blog No Means No: A Call To Boycott ARNC2021. It was hard for me to read because it was written out of malice and it stuck with me for days. I know Alex speaks for FARM and the ARNC — he even signed it as such — and a staff member gave it a heart reaction. No other staff or member of the Board of Directors has spoken out to disagree with the statement as of the publication of this blog. Not one, even though I dedicated seven years to the organization.
To publicly call me “deeply disturbed” from his official position is something right out of his regular playbook. It is nothing more than an attempt to discredit me for sharing my own experiences of his harmful behavior towards the employees of FARM and the affect this behavior had on my mental health. It seems clear to me that he feels threatened and is choosing to lash out in an attempt to further silence me.
[For those of you who don’t know me, I share in the blogs (linked above) how working for Alex at FARM had a devastating effect on my mental health. Unfortunately, this is the same for many people I know in the animal rights movement who had toxic bosses. Those of us who share this should not be shamed for doing so, or called names. Mental health is an issue that we need to take seriously and talk about more instead of trying to ignore it.]
I know that some may have a hard time understanding why I didn’t just leave after any one of the instances I experienced. There were many factors; I was financially reliant month-to-month on the paycheck (for a time I even lived at the FARM office since it was all I could afford). There was camaraderie amongst staff, and even friendship in it. Please understand that I am not the only one that experienced these things and didn’t “just leave.” It was hard, but I thought I was doing the right thing.
In Alex’s, FARM’s and ARNC’s attempt to shame, hurt, or discredit me, I believe they have failed. People can choose to attend the conference, but please know who/what you are supporting when you do so. Know that Alex and FARM continue to gaslight, insult me, and spread falsehoods as a means of deflecting responsibility for the harm they have caused to me and many other former FARM employees. Know that I did not ask for this and it is incredibly hard for me to continue to relive this while trying to move past it. Thankfully I have wonderful family members and friends, a loving husband, a happy home and a healthy workplace.
Read on for more about Alex’s gaslighting and lying below.
To claim that the “allegations” against Alex, made by not just me, were “investigated by an outside security firm and not viewed as sexual harassment” is just plain false as far as I was told. To consider these as “groundless charges” or anything of the sort is nothing short of wishful thinking by Alex.
The scope of the limited investigation that took place at FARM last year, which was current staff (I believe 5 staff members) and 4–5 past employees, was only to gather information. I asked the investigator directly and he told me as much. He also told me that only board member Seth Tibbott would get the encrypted copy of the report and password, and had advised that only the Board members who “needed” to read the report should. His advice was to not share the report with Alex Hershaft and I was also told by the members of the Board that they took this advice and did not share it with Alex, who is president of the Board. I was told every board member, minus Alex, was classified by the board as having the need to read it.
So Seth Tibbott, Saurabh Dalal, Michael Klaper and Elaine Hendrix (whom I believe has since left the Board) received the report that the investigator put together. It was never shared with me, and I am unsure if they kept their word not to share it with Alex. Here is the specific email from Seth letting me know that the investigators (CSI Investigators) was just documenting and gathering information for the HR team, board of directors, or legal counsel to use. They, CSI Investigators, were not hired to decide on anything. This was reiterated when I asked the investigator and again when I spoke with board members.
The investigators suggested a list of recommendations, and I was told by the FARM board that they would be implementing these recommendations which dealt specifically with Alex, the office, and his behavior. These recommendations, which were shared with me, included putting into place a sexual harassment policy and training, moving the FARM office out of Alex’s house, disallowing Alex a personal computer for work business, and installing content filters on FARM computers. I believe FARM hired legal counsel to review the investigator’s report, though I never received information about this from the FARM board of directors.
Alex’s response, as told to me by the Board and the investigator, was quite limited. They suggested that he actually did not contest any of my claims except one about him talking about masturbation at a FARM conference in front of me and others in our staff room. I will re-state: Alex never denied any of my other experiences. The pornography, the nudity, the staff time spent transferring porn, sexually explicit material on FARM staff servers. All of this occurred at the FARM office during working hours. I personally reported it a number of times to my supervisors as well as to the Board of Directors in 2018 and I believe others had reported things as well.
Other responses he has used: He will say that since I identified as a man, it could not be sexual harassment. Simply put, this does not matter. Since he “did not intentionally” do it, he does not consider it to be sexual harassment or a hostile workplace. I contest the intentionality of at least some of his behavior, though intentions are actually moot in these cases. He would very much like to chalk this all up as unfortunate mistakes, yet they were consistent through the years, brought up to him numerous times, and experienced by many others. He has not actually displayed remorse for any of it (at least not to me). I was briefly a tenant inside his house, which is also the FARM office, for about 9 months because he did not pay me enough. The instances I reported were during work time in the FARM office. I did not bring up any instances that were outside of that.
To find out specifics about the investigation and what has been done since, one would need to direct inquiries to the FARM Board of Directors and new Executive Director.
Was I the Only One?
I was not in that office alone, and I only started working at FARM in 2013, (FARM was founded in 1976 and has had countless employees during that time). There are other accounts you can read by reporter Marc Gunther of Nonprofit Chronicles here from 2018 and here in 2020.
I also want to share a former employee’s experience that was well before my time. I was asked to blur her name, as she does not want to be attacked by Alex or FARM. If you know who they are please do not mention them by name:
So what about FARM’s New Executive Director and the Board of Directors?
I felt more hurt and disappointed by FARM’s Board of Directors and Executive Director, Eric Lindstrom, because they should have immediately condemned Alex’s statement and have not done so thus far. I suppose I naively believed they truly cared about me, even after they failed to protect and support me after the fact.
Eric even reached out to reassure me that our relationship in the past was meaningful and that his intentions were good.
But let’s review Eric Lindstrom’s comments to me, shall we?
Here, Eric, who was formerly my supervisor at FARM before moving to Compassion Over Killing (now Animal Outlook), and now back to FARM, confirms that he knew about Alex and the pornography from me as I reported complaints to him when he was my supervisor. Shockingly, Eric decided to take on a leadership role at FARM to work under Alex, knowing full well the history of Alex’s sexual harassment and workplace toxicity. Eric also has not publicly refuted Alex’s statement so, if I take him at his word that Alex essentially is FARM, then FARM, Eric and the Board of Directors support Alex’s public statement.
I have not heard anything from Eric or the Board of Directors about disagreeing with Alex’s public statement. Therefore, I can only assume it is an official stance from Farm Animal Rights Movement and the Animal Rights National Conference.
In closing, I want to go back to my mental health. Plainly put, situations like this are not good for anyone’s mental health, and it’s difficult for me to continue to rehash this. For those who comment in support, I truly appreciate it. I will be taking a break from social media for a while so I may not get back to you but thank you so much. Hopefully this is the last time I will be put in the position to defend myself and will finally be able to move on.