Saul Elbein, Business Insider, and the Smearing of Animal Rights Activists
DxE co-founder Wayne Hsiung published a blog on Medium detailing his experiences with a journalist named Saul Elbein whose investigative reporting turned into a smear campaign against animal rights activists. Medium removed the blog following legal threats from Elbein, so it was moved to the DxE blog.
This specific case offers insight into the broader fraying of journalistic integrity as corporate consolidation of the media puts profit at the forefront of the industry, something Wayne has witnessed firsthand from his time working for CNN, and something we should all be aware of as animal rights activists pitching our message to a profit-driven media.
Hsiung writes, “My relationship with Elbein and Business Insider began with a legitimate story: the prosecution of a pig farmer for saving his pigs.
In early 2019, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an animal rights network I co-founded, discovered that an employee at a Smithfield farm in North Carolina, Bradley Johnson, was being charged for giving piglets to a sanctuary. The piglets at issue were deemed unfit for slaughter, and would have ended up thrown away in a landfill. For allowing these piglets to go to sanctuary — with the apparent permission of his manager — Smithfield claimed that Johnson had “stolen” the pigs and pressured the District Attorney to charge him with felony larceny. In this regard, Johnson’s case was similar to my own; I have been prosecuted for removing dying piglets from a Smithfield factory farm in Utah.”
You can learn more about Wayne’s case against Smithfield here.
When Saul Elbein was pitched on this story, he was interested in Smithfield’s efforts to repress Wayne, an animal cruelty investigator, and Brad Johnson, one of their of their own farmers. The corrupted character in the story was clear: Smithfield Foods, the largest “pork” producer in the world. But as Wayne’s fight against Smithfield drew increasing attention, including from notable journalists, Elbein lost his unique story. His solution? Create a new one.
Hsiung writes, “Saul Elbein’s behavior has not only been deeply disturbing; it is indicative of a darker trend in American media. The pursuit of profit now overwhelms the pursuit of truth. And all the journalistic safeguards that used to be in place — don’t engage in personally problematic behavior with your sources; don’t pay your sources, or ask for payment from them; and don’t lie — are being thrown out the window.”