How did I come to the conclusion? By being vocal on Facebook and on this blog about my experience of how I was banned from DxE, I had numerous experiences with people that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that DxE is a cult.

If I had quietly accepted my fate of being banned indefinitely, which you can read about here, I probably would have felt shame and thought, “Maybe the leaders are right. Maybe I deserved to be banned.” In fact, I was urged by many in DxE to be quiet, and the main criticism I experienced was that I was a terrible person to speak out against DxE publicly.

If people would have logically refuted my evidence that DxE needed a major cultural overhaul, I might have been persuaded that they just made a minor mistake when I was banned. That Paul and Wayne just were stressed out and needed empathy rather than me sharing on Facebook every step of the process of how I was banned and how I felt.

Grief was my first feeling. My grief turned to anger when I saw how people were attacking me for sharing the unfair procedure that lead to me being banned.  And the reasons I thought I was banned.

Another criticism I have received is this: Why don’t you just leave and be quiet?

I am so glad I went public with what happened.  Even though I have been criticized because many people thought I should just leave DxE alone and join some other organization. I think that too many people have left DxE quietly. I understand that they may have been so traumatized that they could not handle the loss of friends and the attacks they would most likely have to endure, as I did. However, when people who have seen extremely hurtful, toxic, even abusive behavior don’t speak up, they pave the way for other innocent people to join.

I will be writing a blog post specifically about how I think respected people who have left DxE quietly are doing a great disservice to the animal rights community. The animal rights community is suffering enough from a lack of unity.

I hear from an increasing number of people that they are leaving the movement because of lack of healthy community. When a person joins an organization like DxE, thinking DxE is typical of animal rights activism, and then leaves–often they are so disillusioned they don’t want to be part of the movement any more. And they tell their friends. And the word spreads–being part of animal rights movement is a ticket to getting hurt.

Here is where I am going to give my proof that DxE is a cult from direct experience, much of which came after I left.

  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. When I questioned Wayne, and other organizers about things that I heard from people who had left DxE, I was told that they those who left were in the wrong. I was referred to Aiden Cook’s long dissertation so I could see for myself that the Steps to Healing document was inaccurate. When I finally realized that DxE was not handling a situation with Boston members in a way that was responsible and honest, I questioned Paul Pickelseimer, and got Jeri D. to help since Paul didn’t have enough good answers to our questions. This caused Wayne to sharply tell me that I “always escalated conflict” and that I should stay out of the Boston DxE chapter’s situation.The same kind of treatment happened with Wayne when I dealt with another DxE member who I thought was greatly causing division and harm to people, including myself.

    When I brought up issues about an organizer last year, Paul Pickeleseimer’s response was, “Maybe you should just leave DxE and work in parallel.” That was his exact answer to Boston Dxe members who were voicing concerns.

  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.In the above situation, I definitely felt like Wayne was trying to force me to not think for myself, not to challenge his leadership, and to bully me into passivity.
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members.I actually bought into this lie. I really thought DxE was the very best animal rights activist group. Even though on the surface DxE leaders sometimes say they are supportive of other groups, and even pay people to organize for Berkeley Anonymous for the Voiceless, possibly the Bay Area save group, I see them as highlighting themselves as the best. Even if they try to be humble in order to have good PR, I definitely got the feeling as an insider-that we were the best of the best.
  • The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality.
    I definitely experienced this when I started speaking out about them. There was no room for dialogue.
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
    There is absolutely no outside board of directors or oversight board. The board of directors who are on the Friends of DxE board, one of whom is Wayne’s sister, the other a person I have never heard of, are never mentioned. Friends of DxE take in all the donations, and then give them back to DxE. Then DxE organizers use the donations for whatever they want.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
    I definitely felt this. People told me both before I left and after–that people were talking about me, thinking I was crazy, thinking I was this and that. Wayne and Paul definitely tried to shame me into thinking that my concerns were not valid.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. Oh my goodness–this is the biggest drive. Every Saturday morning they try to rope people in with a donation only vegan brunch, and we members were definitely pressured into showing up and talking to knew people.  My ability to to talk to new people at any DxE gathering got me showered with lots of praise.  If I got contact information and wrote down notes about the people I met, and sent them to Paul Pickelseimer and Kitty Jones, I really got a lot of strokes.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. People who do volunteer a lot get more attention and perks. I know one person who helped a lot and got the privilege of carrying out a turkey from the farm where 100 turkeys were released. People who received a monthly fellowship were expected to work a lot–I was told by one that she was completely overwhelmed, and I witnessed at the core group meetings that everyone had too much work to do. They were all fellows, and required to attend the weekly 3 hour meetings.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. With so many activities available, I mainly focused attending DxE events. I could attend a beach party or a hike with Vegans of the Bay, and simultaneously recruit members to attend the weekly Meetup or get on the mailing list.Vegans of the Bay is supposedly a social group that just is about having social events for vegans and potential vegans. But I know from attending core meetings that Wayne criticized the events for not having enough outreach for DxE. He wanted Vegans of the Bay as a DxE working group to justify its existence, and the organizer was getting a half fellowship.

    I see Vegans of the Bay as being a bait and switch effort, similar to Amway.

    Getting attendance at every event is essential for several reasons. One, they. have to prove with their statistics to some unknown donors that they are getting people in the door. Two, they want to capture people’s contact information to increase their mailing list which helps recruit members. Three, they want to collect more and more information on them. I feel bad that I shared my experience with new comers with Paul and kitty, because I didn’t tell the people who I was befriending that I would do that. I overruled my conscience because I wanted the praise.

  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave— or even consider leaving—the group. One of the reasons I didn’t want to believe the things that
  • How are people who left the group treated? What is said about them? Will the group give you names of people who left? Both those who were satisfied and those who were not?
  • Are former members willing to speak about their experiences? How do they evaluate their time with the group or person?
  • What is the process for filing complaints? Is there a feedback mechanism that is real and honored? Are complaints made public? Is there a money-back guarantee?
  • Are your questions answered directly? Are you told time and again to listen to your heart and not your head? Are you told that you are too new, too uninformed, too nosy, and so on, and shouldn’t be asking such questions?
  • Is there a leader who appears to be the ultimate authority, spokesperson? Are his or her views challenged by others? Must the leader’s opinion be accepted without question?
  • What is the attitude of the followers toward the leader? Are there checks and balances to hold the leader accountable?
  • Is more than one point of view presented? Are other points of view recognized? Are other points of view seen as valid but different?
  • What kind of commitment is expected? In time, money, lifestyle changes?
  • Does it appear that there are secrets? Is information restricted in any way? Is there some information that you are told must not be shared with outsiders? Is there information that you’re told you can’t get until you’re a member of the group or reached a certain level?