writing letters by markhardigan

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									If you don’t communicate with your representatives, who will? While you’re complaining to your friends about gruesome animal experiments, someone who disagrees with you is communicating with your lawmakers. Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo twice vetoed a bill that would have allowed medical technicians to practice human intubation (inserting tubes through the mouth or nose into the trachea) on cats; Cuomo’s aides said they received more mail on the bill than any other piece of legislation. You’re probably not going to singlehandedly convince your legislators to outlaw the fur trade. But many legislators share your objectives and just need to be convinced that there is public support for them. The Advocacy Institute explains: “When votes are secured or changed, it’s most likely the aroused constituent-activists—the grassroots—who can claim the credit.” Here’s how to make your voice count: • Find out who your federal and state representatives are. Check PETA’s Legislative Guide in the Action Alert section. To get the names of your U.S. senators and representative, call the congressional switchboard at 202-2243121. Give the operator your zip code, and he or she will give you the names of your legislators to use with the following addresses. Senators The Honorable (name) U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510 Representatives The Honorable (name) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

To get the names and addresses of state representatives, consult the Blue Pages in your phone book, or call your local courthouse or municipal building. • Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, NOT as a member of an organization; legislators want to get feedback from voters, not lobbyists. • Keep letters brief—no more than one page. If you’re writing about a specific bill, mention the bill’s name and number, if you know it, and whether you support or oppose it in the first paragraph. 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 animal rights bills”; very few legislators vote in favor of all 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. • WRITE! 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. Fight Fire With Facts Itching to write a scathing letter but fear you don’t have enough ammunition? You can have all the facts at your fingertips with PETA’s collection of factsheets on more than 70 animal rights topics! To order, call PETA’s Merchandise Department at 1-800-483-4366, or go to our Web site at PETACatalog.com.

Remember!
Right now raccoons are chewing off their paws to escape from leghold traps. Right now baby chicks’ beaks are being burned off. Right now animal performers are being beaten backstage. Right now millions of dogs, cats, cows, sheep, pigs, chimpanzees, rabbits, mice, and other animals are being tortured in laboratories. Write now!
PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS
501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 757-622-PETA • PETA.org

“To whom it may concern ... ”

THE PETA GUIDE TO LETTER-WRITING
or, how to flex your activist muscle from your armchair

Sometimes the pen—or word processor—really is mightier than the sword—and you don’t have to be Shakespeare! Writing letters to newspapers, businesses, and legislators is an easy, effective way to help animals. Here’s how ...
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR When you write letters to the editors of local newspapers instead of writing to just one person, you reach thousands! It’s easier than you think. • Read local papers and magazines for fuel for letters. Watch for articles, ads, or letters that mention animals. Some examples: 4 ads for rodeos, circuses, and fur stores 4 articles about medical experiments 4 features about local humane groups or companion animal care • Letters don’t have to be rebuttals. Circus in town? Noticing a lot of strays? Or use the calendar for inspiration: At Easter, tell readers why they shouldn’t buy bunnies. On Mother’s Day, remind your community of the animals whose babies are taken from them on factory farms. • Write on good news as well as bad. Thank the paper for its coverage of an anti-fur protest or for running profiles of animals available for adoption at shelters. • Be brief! Often one short, pithy paragraph is enough. Try to stay under 300 words (about one typed page). Editors are less likely to print long letters. • Type, if possible. Otherwise, print legibly. Be sure to use correct grammar and spelling, and remember to have it proofread. • Make sure you include your name, address, and telephone number in your letter. Some newspapers verify authorship before printing letters by calling you. • Feel free to submit excerpts from PETA’s Animal Times and other PETA publications to your local newspapers. Our materials are not copyrighted and may be distributed freely.

• Look for opportunities to write op-ed pieces for local papers. These are longer articles of about 500 to 800 words that summarize an issue, develop an argument, and propose a solution. Send the article to the Editorial Page editor. • You can also write television and radio stations to protest glorification of animal abuse or to compliment them on a program well done. Some tips on style • Increase your credibility by mentioning anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic: for instance, “As a nutritionist, I know a vegan diet is healthy,” or, “as a mother,” or, “as a former fur-wearer,” or, “as a cancer survivor.” • Try to tell readers something they’re not likely to know—such as how chickens are raised to produce eggs—and encourage them to take action (such as to stop buying eggs). • Avoid personal grudges and name-calling; they’ll hurt your credibility. The Today show reported that it received more angry mail on its show about how to kill lobsters than on any other segment! • Speak affirmatively. Don’t give lip service to anti-animal arguments. Example “It’s not true that vegetarians are weaklings.” Better “Vegetarians are healthier and slimmer and live years longer than flesh-eaters.” • Avoid self-righteous language and exaggeration. Readers may dismiss arguments if they feel preached to or if the author sounds hysterical. Example “Only a heartless sadist could continue to eat animals when any fool knows their lives are snuffed out in screaming agony for the satisfaction of people who can’t be bothered to take a moral stand.”

Better “Most compassionate people would stop eating meat if they saw how miserable the animals are.” Whenever appropriate, include something for readers to do. • Don’t assume your audience knows the issues. Example “Don’t support the cruel veal industry.” Better “Calves factory-farmed for veal are tethered in small stalls and kept in complete darkness. Their mothers also endure sad fates, starting with the loss of their infants a few days after birth.” • Inclusive language helps your audience identify with you. Example “Eating meat is bad for your health.” Better “We know that eating meat is bad for our health.” • Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands. Example “Don’t go to the circus.” Better “Let’s take our families to non-animal circuses.” • Personalize your writing with anecdotes and visual images. Example “Leghold traps can trap an animal by the face, leg, or stomach.” Better “Have you ever seen a yearling fox with her face caught in a leghold trap? I have, which is how I know that traps tear into an animal’s face, leg, or stomach.” • Avoid speciesist language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun (“it”or “which”), use “she” or “he.” • Avoid euphemisms (e.g.,“negative reinforcement,” “culling the herd”); say what you really mean (e.g., “painful electric shocks,” “slaughtering deer”).

A WORD ABOUT FORM LETTERS PETA doesn’t recommend the use of “form” letters to the editor—prewritten letters provided by an organization—because many newspapers demand exclusivity. Additionally, if papers get the same letter from several different people or later see your letter in a different paper with someone else’s name on it, it can cast suspicion on all letters on animal rights topics and dissuade editors from printing them. Use the information that many organizations provide, but personalize your letter so that it’s your own. LETTERS TO BUSINESSES Use your clout as a consumer to protest to companies that exploit 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. If a business offers a fur as a prize, explain why you object and ask the sponsor to offer a humane prize, such as a trip or jewelry. LETTERS TO LEGISLATORS While everyone’s good at complaining about politics to their friends, too few of us talk to those who can do something about it: legislators. Your input really does make a difference! The governor of Virginia vetoed a bill putting a bounty on coyotes because he received so much mail against it. According to former member of Congress Billy Evan (D-Ga.), “Legislators estimate that 10 letters from constituents represent the concerns of 10,000 citizens. Anybody who will take the time to write is voicing the fears and desires of thousands more.” continued ...


								
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