An essential part of any movement for social change is the effort to create new legislation. You don't need to be an expert on law or politics to lobby your elected officials, but you do need to know how to communicate with them effectively.
The first step is to find out who they are. Next, get to know as many legislators as you can. Don't wait until you or your group want to introduce a bill or to lobby your legislator to vote one way or the other on an issue. Lay the foundation before you start a legislative campaign. Attend "town meetings" where legislators meet with voters to answer questions. Write to thank them for taking specific positions that you support. Arrange to meet with them, even if it's on an issue that you don't feel strongly about. The important thing is to establish a rapport.
It's also very helpful to get to know elected officials' aides, who are often much more accessible than the legislators themselves and can often provide you with good "inside" information.
When contacting elected officials, keep the following guidelines in mind.
Legislators prefer to be contacted by the following means (in order of preference):
Be sure to provide your name, address, and phone number on the envelope, in the letter, and in all e-mail messages and make sure you are able to articulate the issue should you get your elected official or an aide on the phone. Check out PETA's guide to contacting your legislator for more information.
In your correspondence with elected officials, be mindful of the following guidelines:
When addressing the letter and envelope, be sure to use the proper form for the address and salutation:
The Honorable [first and last name]U.S. SenateWashington, DC 20510
The Honorable [first and last name]U.S. House of RepresentativesWashington, DC 20515
When meeting with elected officials, keep the following tips in mind to make the most of your visit:
Remember that how you communicate is as important as what you communicate. People who care about animals are often stereotyped as too emotional. We can change that image by doing our homework, staying calm and polite, and keeping our statements concise.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.