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Old School Activism: Writing Letters

On Sunday, a wonderful (and slightly mysterious) volunteer came here from Connecticut to get a tour and help out. Her name is CJ, and she is one of those strongly self-directed types of people who wants to be given a job and left alone to do it. So, after our tour, I handed her a paintbrush and a bucket of paint, and she primed our new “bus shelter” (what we call the shelter we built for the birds in one of the two large yards down here).

While she was painting and I was spraying off some items in the yard, CJ and I were talking about writing letters as a form of activism for animals. That is actually one of the first things I did once I decided to work on behalf of animals. Every month, the NAVS (National Anti-Vivisection Society) would send me a list of places to write to, and I would dutifully write to everyone on the list. Over time, I expanded that list to include issues about farmed animals, and then we started the sanctuary and the writing kind of fell off. Now, of course, it’s fallen off for everyone, as clicking links on Facebook and signing online petitions have taken its place.

But I felt then, and I still feel, that writing letters to corporations, politicians, and other individuals and venues (such as magazines and newspapers) can be an exceptionally effective way to make change, particularly when you take into account the fact that the input is so minimal. Meaning: small investment, potentially big gains. As CJ pointed out, every letter represents anywhere from ten to a hundred other constituents who did not, for whatever reason, write a letter but who feel the same way you do. So, when I wrote a letter to Colgate opposing animal testing, that letter told corporate executives there that at least ten, and possibly one hundred, people felt the same way.

Why is that important? Because in the end, it’s all about either money or power. By writing letters, you have a chance to make the decision-makers understand they have something to lose — money or power or both — by continuing to exploit animals; on the other hand, you can tell them what they have to gain by giving up abusive practices and embracing cruelty-free living. By writing letters, you have the ability to do so in a way that makes more of an impact, sometimes, than the online activism to which we have all grown accustomed.

That’s my old-school activist thought for the day: commit to writing one letter a week from now on to a politician or corporation about an issue relating to animal liberation. It’s a simple, yet very effective way to make a difference. And if you have other old-school activist ideas that you think are worth reviving, let us know!

(And thank you, CJ, for priming the shelter — it looks beautiful!)

4 comments to Old School Activism: Writing Letters

  • CQ
    David Cantor, founder and president of Responsible Policies for Animals, is a strong proponent of letter-writing.

    In fact, his “10,000 Years is Enough” campaign is constructed on missives to land-grant universities:

    Thanks for the priming job, CJ from CT! :-)

  • Barbara Beierl
    Those of you working at Vine Sanctuary, such as Miriam, are amazingly committed to animal causes. I have the utmost respect and affection for you. I am in total agreement about writing letters. I write so many that our local newspaper won’t even print them any longer! I might contribute one technique which saves a lot of time when one is conscientiously trying to strengthen the cause of animals in one organization or group and are feeling saturated and depressed. I keep copies of my letters to all parties and use them as I would form letters. I don’t copy them verbatim, but I use them to remind myself of my arguments for one course of action or another. This technique helps me enormously.

    Barbara Beierl

  • Miriam
    CQ, thank you for the resource, and Barbara, thank you for the tip!!
  • In a previous life as an activist on an entirely different issue, I used to think that letter writing was a waste of time. As my activism evolved I learned that there is a place and a value in writing letters. Good post!

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