My Story of Sexual Harassment working for Alex Hershaft at Farm Animal Rights Movement

Experiencing sexual harassment, a toxic workplace and unprofessionalism in the animal rights movement

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

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 as 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 April 2018 but still had regular visits to fix computer issues and meet with Alex until March 2020, because of COVID-19. He had a 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 and was involved in much of the day to day. For those that don’t know who Alex Hershaft is, 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 more 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.

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.

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.

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.