Episode #004 – Activism with Wayne Hsiung & Brian Burns, DxE


What if everything we think we know about social change… is wrong?

The growth of the Arab Spring, global LGBTQ rights, and the animal rights movement in notable countries around the world (which have, in some cases, seen up to 15% vegetarian surges in a single year) are powerful examples of sudden and systemic change. Can we achieve the same incredible mobilizations for progressive causes in the US?

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) founder Wayne Hsiung, former behavioral law and economics scholar at Northwestern and long-time social justice activist, seeks to answer that question.

Based on the pioneering work of the greatest thinkers in sociology, political science, economics, and law, the talk has been recently presented at Harvard, NYU, and Georgetown law schools. And it just might upend your views on social change. Topics include:

• the essential elements of successful social movements;

• how the conventional wisdom in environmentalism, animal advocacy, and other progressive causes has fallen short (e.g. focus on individuals over systems, neglect of ideas, and fear of being unpopular);

• what Justin Bieber can teach us about social change (seriously); and

• what DxE has learned from successful movements to create empowered activist networks… and push toward real and permanent change

Whether you are a leafleter, an admirer of the ELF, or both, there will be much to learn and discuss. Moreover, there will be insights useful for both seasoned activists and newcomers. Please join us in thinking hard about how to make a better world!


WAYNE HSIUNG is an attorney, co-founding organizer of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), and coordinator for Animal Liberationists of Color. He was lead organizer of the international Earthlings March (which mobilized thousands of activists in 17 countries), served as a law professor at Northwestern (where he co-authored research with Harvard’s Cass Sunstein), and has organized for social justice issues since 1999, including programs for low income youth and against capital punishment. Wayne studied behavioral economics as a NSF Graduate Fellow at MIT and an Olin Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School and blogs at The Liberationist about social change. He has spoken on social justice issues at Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, and Stanford and recently presented on the science of social change at the national animal rights conference. Prior to DxE, Wayne was an attorney at two national law firms where he litigated consumer fraud class actions and maintained a pro bono animal law practice. Despite holding two graduate degrees, he is regularly outwitted by his four furry companions.

BRIAN BURNS is a math enthusiast and organizer for DxE. He studies mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, and was recently admitted to the University of Chicago where he plans to continue his studies. In his spare time, he likes to learn more about analytic combinatorics and waste countless hours playing Dark Souls. Brian found out about animal rights through videos produced by groups like MFA and Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation but was not involved in activism until he attended an open meeting hosted by DxE in early 2013. Brian has given talks about the history of social justice movements at DxE open meetings, podcasts for The Liberationist, and believes in a world without species prejudice.


Direct Action Everywhere is an animal rights network working to stop violence and discrimination against animals. Beginning in 2013 in the Bay Area with only a few activists and ambitious ideas, the DxE network has grown exponentially with its flagship campaign, “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence,” reaching 41 cities across 12 countries and generating national news coverage.

DxE works with Animal Liberationists of Color to highlight voices that have been traditionally underrepresented in the animal rights movement and has mobilized activists in cities as far-flung as Chennai, India; Antalya, Turkey; La Paz, Bolivia; and Vancouver, Canada. DxE is strongly committed to building diverse, intersectional movements.


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