Peta's Guide to Letter-Writing
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! And
it's easier than you might think.
Read local papers and magazines for fuel for letters.
Watch for articles, ads, or letters that mention animals.
ads for rodeos, circuses, and fur stores
articles about medical experiments
features about local humane groups or companion
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! Sometimes 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
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 - 800 words that summarize an
issue, develop an argument, and propose a solution. Send the article to the
Editorial Page editor.
The Today show reported that it recieved more angry
mail on its show about how to kill lobsters than any other segment.
You can also write (or call) 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 veggie diet is healthy," or, "as a mother," or, "as a
former fur-wearer," or, "as a cancer survivor," etc.
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).
Whenever appropriate, include something for readers to
Keep personal grudges and name-calling out of letters;
they'll hurt your credibility.
Don't give lip service to anti-animal arguments. Speak
"It's not true vegetarians
"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
"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."
"Most compassionate people would stop eating meat if
they saw how miserable the animals are."
Don't assume your audience knows the issues.
"Don't support the cruel veal industry."
"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
"Eating meat is bad for your health."
"We know eating meat is bad for our health."
Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands.
"Don't go to the circus."
"Let's take our families to non-animal circuses."
Personalize your writing with anecdotes and visual
"Leghold traps can trap an animal by the face, leg, or
"Have you ever seen a yearling fox with her face caught
in a leghold trap? I have, which is how I know 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 ("negative reinforcement," "culling
the herd"); say what you really mean ("painful electric shocks,"
Criticize the cruelty, not the newspaper.
"There is no excuse for your article promoting the
"There is no excuse for the abuse that goes on in the
Letters to the Businesses
Use your clout as a consumer to protest companies that
exploit animals. Tell cosmetics manufacturers you will purchase other brands
until they stop testing on animals, or tell a store 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 furs and ask the sponsor to
offer a prize that does not reflect animal cruelty, such as a trip or
Letters to the Legislators
While everyone's good at complaining about politics to
their friends, too few citizens express their opinions to those who can do
something about it: legislators. Constituent input really does make a
The governor of Virginia vetoed a bill putting a bounty
on coyotes because he received so much mail against it.
According to former Congressperson 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." If that's not enough to
convince you, ask yourself this: 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 lawmakers. You're probably not going to single-handedly convince
your legislators to outlaw the fur trade. 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. 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. To get the names of your U.S. senators and representative, call the
congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121. 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. n
Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, NOT as a
member of an organization; legislators want to get feedback from voters, not
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
Be polite and concise. Keep everything relevant to the
bill or issue in question. Never be threatening or insulting. n 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.
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
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