Letter-Writing Guide

Sometimes, a politely worded letter really is the best way to help animals. Whether you’re persuading companies to adopt ethical policies, raising awareness about cruelty in your local newspaper or encouraging MPs to vote for animal-friendly laws, the pen (or keyboard) can be mightier than the sword.

Firing off a letter need only take a few minutes, and anyone can do it! Follow these tips for making your messages as effective as possible.

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’ll 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.

It’s easier than you might think: read local papers and magazines and watch for articles, ads or letters that mention animals.

Here are some examples of what to look for:

  • Ads for circuses, new restaurants or fur stores
  • Articles about medical experiments on animals
  • Features about local humane groups or animal-companion care

Letters can be positive or negative. Is the circus in town? Noticing a lot of stray animals roaming around the neighbourhood? Let people know how you feel. You can also use the calendar for inspiration: at Easter, explain why people shouldn’t buy bunnies. On Mother’s Day, remind your community of the animals whose babies are taken from them on factory farms. You could also thank a paper for its coverage of an anti-fur protest or for running profiles of animals available for adoption at shelters or even 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.

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 between 100 and 150 words (or 10 to 15 typed lines).

Here are some other tips for writing to editors:

  • Be sure to use correct grammar and spelling, and remember to have your letter proofread by someone with good language skills. Spelling mistakes give editors an excuse to dismiss your arguments.
  • Make the first sentence catchy to get the readers’ attention, and stick to one issue.
  • Your 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’s literature and websites to help you write your letters. Feel free to use and adapt any text from our materials.
  • Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number in your letter. Some newspapers verify authorship before printing letters, and submissions from locals are often more likely to be published.
  • Mention anything that makes you especially qualified to write on a topic, such as personal experience or professional qualifications (e.g., “As a mother, … ” or “As a qualified nutritionist, … “).

Letters to Businesses

Use your clout as a consumer to protest companies that exploit animals.

Here are some ideas:

  • Tell cosmetics manufacturers that you’ll purchase other brands until they stop testing on animals.
  • Ask restaurants to remove unethical foie gras from their menus or include more vegan options. (Check out some of these successes for inspiration!)
  • Explain to clothing stores that you won’t shop there as long as they sell cruelly produced angora.
  • Request that travel companies end their promotions for inhumane attractions, such as bullfighting or marine parks.

Letters to Politicians

It’s easy to complain to your friends, but what about complaining to people who really have the power to change the law? A personalised, well-informed letter to your MP or MEP can make a huge difference. Most politicians genuinely want to hear from their constituents and will almost always send you a reply at the very least.

Use a website such as WriteToThem to find out who your representatives are and then send them a message.

Here are some tips for what to include in your letter:

  • Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, not as a member of an organisation.
  • Focus on one topic and try to ask them to take a specific action, such as to vote a certain way in an upcoming debate or to contact a minister on your behalf.
  • Be polite and concise, and keep everything relevant to the bill or issue in question. Never be threatening or insulting.
  • Keep letters brief – no more than one page in length. If you’re writing about a specific bill, mention in the first paragraph the bill’s name and whether you support or oppose it. Include reasons and supporting data in the next paragraph or two. Conclude by asking them for a response.
  • If you receive a reply, continue the conversation by writing back – perhaps by thanking the politician if they’ve done what you asked or expressing your disappointment if they’ve failed to do so. Follow-up communications show that you’re serious about the issue and can help you start to build a long-term relationship with your representative.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the project. Just get those letters written and in the post! As few as 10 letters on any one topic can sway a representative’s vote. Several hours of letter writing every month can make a big impact. And don’t be discouraged if you receive unfavourable responses – the more we communicate with public officials, the more likely they’ll be to change their position.