The animal liberation group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is having a bad month. First, its co-founder Wayne Hsiung was found guilty in California of a felony and two misdemeanors related to farmer harassment. Now, a broad exposé accuses Hsiung and DxE of misconduct.
Prism, a leftwing news website, has published a long report based on interviews with former Direct Action Everywhere activists. As the article puts it:
Co-founded by Hsiung in 2013, DxE is known for its disruptive, direct-action alternative-style protests in the name of animal rights. Now, K.S. and other former DxE activists allege that core members of the group’s leadership team were involved in sexual misconduct, retaliation, and shady business practices while fostering a cult-like environment at the Berkeley-based nonprofit. Organizers say the organization has been structured as a hierarchy, with Hsiung sitting at the top and misusing his position to engage in relationships with much younger staffers and retaliate when they speak out.
Here’s one anecdote:
By March 2022, K.S., who was about 15 years younger than Hsiung, agreed to meet with and help Hsiung record a podcast in Southern California. K.S. said Hsiung suggested the two get dinner the night before under the pretense of showing her how the mics worked before their morning taping. During the meal, K.S. said Hsiung asked her intimate and personal questions, including if she wanted to have children.
K.S. said Hsiung walked her to her car and “launched into a profession of feelings” for the activist, admitting he had felt this way for a long time and that her disinterest in having kids concerned him. During her drive home, Hsiung sent K.S. a lengthy Signal message that was viewed by Prism in which he expressed his feelings and “love” for K.S. The next morning, during the taping, K.S. said Hsiung asked if it was awkward for him to hug her.
Yikes. What is it with the animal rights movement and creeps named Wayne?
The report goes on to give more anecdotes. Here’s one:
Camila, who is not a U.S. citizen, connected with DxE activist Rocky Chau. Camila said Hsiung suggested the two get married as a way for her to achieve immigration status. Camila and Chau quickly got engaged without meeting and carried out a long-distance relationship until February 2021 while Camila lived in Lima awaiting immigration papers. Prism reviewed text message records between Chau and Camila that confirmed a relationship between the pair.
“I kept hearing these stories, and I kept reading [about people] who had left and were alleging that there was sexual abuse and coercion going on within DxE,” Camila said. “There was always a way to justify it. While seeing this, I was being groomed myself [by] the person that was about to marry me to emigrate, which was Rocky Chau.”
Hsiung responded to the allegations in an emailed statement to Prism, saying he advised many people that “bona fide, legitimate family-based immigration is the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to obtain permanent residence – which is the same advice any attorney would give.”
Legal? Maybe. Sketchy? Definitely.
And these alleged issues at DxE stretch back years:
During a two-hour meeting in 2017, Hsiung singled out an activist he had removed by saying she had violated the group’s trust for speaking negatively about him in private, which caused members to question the leader’s intentions. Days later, former and current members of the organization created a “Steps to Healing” petition, which outlined steps for DxE’s leadership team to take accountability for their alleged behavior. The petition details violations from members of the core team, including psychological manipulation through “love-bombing,” disenfranchisement of non-Bay Area members, and email censorship. It goes on to suggest that members of the leadership team, including Hsiung and Sawhney, recuse themselves from their positions.
The document was signed by 43 former members of the organization who left en masse. The mass exodus of organizers resulted in the Ohio, Connecticut, Michigan, and Philadelphia chapters closing. The New York and Colorado chapters also closed.
In the years since, many other former members have left the organization, including Camila.
“I left because I accepted and realized it is a far left-wing political cult that psychologically abuses its members … and fosters a sexual abuse environment,” Camila wrote in a statement sent to Prism.
“Prism attempted to reach out to Hsiung for a follow-up interview, but he has since been tried and convicted, so a second interview was not possible,” the website reported.
Prism previously reported on how employees of the Animal Legal Defense Fund alleged it had become a toxic workplace. And then of course there’s the previous allegations about HSUS executives Wayne Pacelle and Paul Shapiro, FARM’s founder, and Mercy for Animals.
What if the animal liberation movement is simply rotten to its core?