Writing for Animals: Tips You Need to Know

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

penOften the pen—or computer—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

You can get great exposure for animal rights issues 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 in order to learn what issues really matter to the public. It’s easier than you might think.

  • Read local papers and magazines to get ideas for letters. Watch for articles, ads, or letters that mention animals.
  • Letters don’t have to be rebuttals. Circus in town? Noticing a lot of strays? Let people know how you feel. You can also 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! Sometimes one pithy 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.
  • Use information from PETA literature and our website to help you write your letters. Feel free to use and adapt any text in our materials.
  • 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.
  • You can also write (or call) television and radio stations to protest the glorification of cruelty to animals or to compliment them on programs that promote animal rights. For example, after an American morning show aired a segment about how to kill lobsters, it reported that it had received more angry mail about that segment than it had for any other.

Some Tips on Style

  • Increase your credibility by mentioning anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic. For instance, you might write, “As a nutritionist, I know that a vegetarian diet is healthy,” “As a mother …,” “As a former fur-wearer …,” “As a cancer survivor …,” etc.
  • Try to tell readers something that they’re not likely to know (such as how chickens are raised to produce eggs), and suggest ways to take action (such as to stop buying eggs).
  • Whenever appropriate, include something for readers to do.
  • Keep personal grudges and name-calling out of letters—they’ll hurt your credibility.
  • Don’t give lip service to anti-animal arguments. Speak affirmatively.

Letters to Businesses

Use your clout as a consumer to protest 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 to wearing fur and ask the sponsor to offer a prize that does not cause animal suffering, such as a trip or jewelry.

Letters to Legislators

  • Although 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. The input of everyday people really does make a difference.
  • If you don’t communicate with the officials representing you, who will? While you’re complaining to your friends about gruesome animal experiments, someone who disagrees with you is communicating with your representatives.
  • You’re probably not going to convince your legislators to outlaw the fur trade on your own. But many legislators share your values and just need to be convinced that there is sufficient public support before putting their necks on the line. 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 local government representatives are. Use the Internet, your local library, or city hall to gather information.
  • 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 law or potential law, mention the law’s name (and number if you know it) in the first paragraph 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 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.
  • 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. Remember: Right now, raccoons are chewing off their paws to escape from steel-jaw traps. Right now, baby chicks’ beaks are being burned off. Right now, animals who are forced to perform are being beaten backstage. Right now, millions of dogs, cats, cows, sheep, pigs, chimpanzees, rabbits, mice, and other animals are being abused in laboratories and on factory farms. Write now!

Posted by Edwina Baier