"Tips for Effective Animal-Rights Letters to Editors"I'm continually surprised by how little people seem to know about animal issues. For example, many people don't even realize that cows must be impregnated in order to produce milk.
"Tell readers something they might not know – such as that most hens are confined in battery cages or how dairy cows are treated to produce milk – and suggest ways readers can make a difference (stop buying eggs and dairy products)."
L.O.V.E. has done an excellent job explaining this fact in their page on "Why Vegan":
"As with humans, dairy cows produce milk for their children and therefore only produce milk after giving birth. Impregnation is commonly done by shoving a hand into the cow’s anus to guide an insemination gun that is pushed into the cow’s vagina. This process is repeated every year so she will continue to produce milk. Her baby is taken away from her shortly after birth, destined either to become veal or another dairy cow. After 4 to 6 years of being used by us as a milk machine, her milk production declines and, being no longer of any economic value for us, she is sent to slaughter. Her flesh often ends up in fast food hamburgers. All dairy products, including organic and grass-fed, come from cows destined for the slaughterhouse."
says L.O.V.E., which stands for Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation.
"Include information about the issue(s); do not assume that readers already know. For example, rather than writing 'Foie gras production is bad,' be specific: 'In order to create ‘fatty livers,’ foie gras producers subject ducks and geese to an invasive feeding technique that forces into their stomachs up to thirty percent of their body weight every day. That’s like a two-hundred-pound man being forced to swallow sixty pounds of food a day.'"
More tips from Hawthorne:
Here are some podcasts on this subject:
"Watch your language. Instead of referring to an animal with an inanimate pronoun ('that' or 'it'), use 'who,' 'she' or 'he.' Also, use 'animal advocates' rather than 'animal-rights groups,' 'farmed animals' rather than the friendly 'farm animals' and 'painkiller' rather than 'anesthesia.'"
- Marks of Domination: The Branding of Human and Animal Slaves (28min14sec) - a podcast from Food for Thought
- Why Don't You Care About Humans? (27min51sec) - a podcast from Food for Thought
"Use positive suggestions to help readers make a difference. For example, rather than simply writing “Boycott the circus,” you can suggest events that don’t use animals, such as Cirque du Soleil, or direct them to Web sites like circuses.com."
I whole-heartedly agree. Once people realize the horrific realities of animal exploitation, they see that the problem is enormous and they often feel powerless. They need suggestions for concrete action. This is an area where Mark Hawthorne has truly excelled. He's written a book purely on the topic of animal advocacy:
Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism
"Do not use overly dramatic language, which may turn some readers off. Let the facts speak for themselves."
I think it depends on the context. Dramatic language can incite controversy, which publishers seem to love because it tends to sell more, so they're sometimes more interested in publishing letters with dramatic language. The more controversial, the more attention you get. PETA proves that everyday.
" Use an affirmative voice. For example, rather than writing 'Vegans are not wimps,' write 'Vegans have a much healthier body-mass index than most meat-eaters, and they live years longer.'"
I think this is a good idea. Specific examples help, too. For example, you could cite Mac Danzig, a very non-wimpy vegan:
"Promote the friendly side of veganism/vegetarianism and animal advocacy, and refrain from insults, which will hurt your credibility and perpetuate a negative opinion of animal activists."
A good way to do this is to "sit" on the letter. Write a letter and then don't send it. Wait a day, reread, edit if necessary, and then send the letter.
Trust me, I've written a lot of things off-the-cuff and I've gotten myself into a lot of hot water. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes not. We're all human and we all make mistakes. And anger against animal exploitation and animal exploiters is often justified. But take it from me, cooling off before hitting the "send" button is usually a good idea.
"Like humans, animals have a wide range of emotions. Try to depict this in your letters and help people understand how similar animals are to us. For example, 'Like all animals, pigs feel pain and fear …'
Example: Everybody Hurts. Or this one:
Clearly, these tips can be used not just for newspaper opinion section letter-writing, but also for blogging, commenting on blogs, emails to friends and family, forum posts, and more."