LETTER WRITING

You can get great exposure for earth and animal issues by writing letters to the editors of newspapers or magazines, writing letters to businesses and writing letters to legislators. Use your clout as a consumer to protest companies that exploit the environment and animals. While everyone is good at complaining about politics to their friends, too few citizens express their opinions to those who can do something about it: legislators.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

By writing letters to the editors of newspapers or magazines, not only will you be reaching thousands of readers, you will also be bringing your concerns to the attention of policymakers who often refer to the opinion pages to learn what issues really matter to the public.

  • Read local papers and magazines to get ideas for letters. Watch for articles, ads or letters that mention earth and animal issues.
  • Letters don’t have to be rebuttals. Let people know how you feel. Write on good news as well as bad. Thank the paper for its coverage of earth and animal issues.
  • Be brief. Sometimes one paragraph is enough. Three hundred words is the maximum length that most papers or magazines will allow without cutting, and it’s better for you to do the cutting than for the editor to do it. The ideal length is 100 to 150 words (10 to 15 typed lines).
  • Type if possible. Otherwise, print legibly. Be sure to use correct grammar and spelling, and remember to have your letter proofread by someone with good language skills.
  • Make the first sentence catchy to get the readers’ attention, and stick to one issue. The letter should be timely. If you’re responding to an article, send it no more than three days after the article was published.
  • Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number in your letter. Some newspapers verify authorship before printing letters.
  • Don’t just send letters to the biggest paper in town. The smaller the paper, the better the chances of getting your letter printed. Small weekly papers can help you reach hundreds or even thousands of people. Occasionally, you may have the chance to write an opinion piece for the local paper, especially if you are involved in a controversial campaign. These are longer articles of 500 to 800 words that summarize an issue, develop an argument, and propose a solution. Send the article to the editorial page editor with a cover letter explaining why it should be printed. The opinion piece has a better chance of getting printed if it is signed by someone prominent, even if you wrote it for him or her.
  • You can also write (or call) television and radio stations to bring attention to earth and animal issues or to compliment them on programs that promote environmental and animal issues.
  • Increase your credibility by mentioning anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic. Try to tell readers something they’re not likely to know and suggest ways to take action. Include something for readers to do. Keep personal grudges and name-calling out of letters; they’ll hurt your credibility.
  • Speak affirmatively. Avoid self-righteous language and exaggeration. Don’t assume your audience knows the issues. Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands. Personalize your writing with anecdotes and visual images.
  • Avoid speciesist language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun (“it” or “which”), use “she” or “he” and “who.” Avoid euphemisms; say what you really mean. Criticize the cruelty, not the newspaper.

LETTERS TO BUSINESSES

Send letters to companies that exploit the environment and animals. Tell cosmetics manufacturers that you will purchase other brands until they stop testing on animals, or tell a store that you won’t shop there until it stops carrying live animals—and explain why.

LETTERS TO LEGISLATORS

Constituent input really does make a difference. If you don’t communicate with the officials representing you, who will? You’re probably not going to single-handedly convince your legislators, but many legislators share your objectives and just need to be convinced that there is sufficient public support before putting their necks on the line.

  • Find out who your federal and state representatives are. Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, not as a member of an organization; legislators want to get feedback from their constituents, not lobbyists. Keep letters brief—no more than one page. If you’re writing about a specific bill, mention in the first paragraph the bill’s name (and number if you know it) and whether you support or oppose it. Include reasons and supporting data in the next paragraph or two. Conclude by asking for a response.
  • Focus on a specific topic. Don’t ask the legislator just to “support animals and the environment.” Very few legislators vote in favor of all earth and animal protection bills, because different issues are at stake with each one. Be polite and concise. Keep everything relevant to the bill or issue in question. Never be threatening or insulting. Remember, each letter pertaining to a particular piece of legislation is usually counted as a “yes” or “no.”
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the project. Just get those letters written and in the mail. As few as 10 letters on any one topic can sway a legislator’s vote. Several hours of letter writing every month can make a big impact. And don’t be discouraged if you receive unfavorable responses; the more we communicate with public officials, the sooner they’ll change their positions.