January 24, 2011
Student Guide to Lobbying: Part 1
What is lobbying? And how can you do it?
Major decisions affecting the lives of animals are made all the time in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. These government bodies pass laws that affect farm animals, companion animals, animals used in research, and wildlife.
The job of legislators is to represent the public’s views. To get your legislators to vote in favor of animals, you must contact them and make your opinion known. This is called lobbying. Anyone of any age can be a citizen lobbyist for animals. Your voice counts! For a more in-depth and interactive explanation, sign up for our free online course: Using the Legislative Process to Speak Up for Animals.
The idea of contacting a federal or state representative might make you nervous. But it’s their job to be available to the public. Keep these tips in mind when you call or meet with your representatives:
Introduce yourself. When talking with an elected official – either in person or on the phone – be sure to identify yourself by name. Give your age, grade, and school. If you are part of a school group or other organization, include that as well.
Remember bill numbers and titles. If you are contacting an official about a bill (a proposed law), make sure you include the number and title of the bill. Make it clear whether you’re asking them to support or oppose it.
Educate when you can. Offer to provide information on the issue at hand. Just avoid overwhelming a legislator with a lot of information — they’re busy people!
Personalize it. Explain why the issue is important to you, your family and your community. This has more impact than saying, “I oppose this because it’s wrong.” Knowing as much as you can about animal issues will always help.
Be clear. For example, say you want to end canned hunts – not just end “outrageous hunting practices.” Also, be prepared to give definitions for any animal-related terms that your lawmakers may not be familiar with.
Avoid party politics. If you follow a certain political party, you may be inclined to only deal withmembers of that party. But remember: Animals have friends on all sides.
Know your lawmaker’s history on animal issues. You can look up legislators and their past action for animals at humanescorecard.org. Knowing this information is important when speaking with lawmakers. Offer a thank you for their past support.
Keep things friendly. Maintain a positive relationship with all legislators. Always be professional and polite. Threats and hostile or sarcastic remarks won’t get you anywhere.
Work with staff. Legislators’ staff members can sometimes be more accessible than the legislator. Also, staff members are often respected members of the legislator’s team, so he or she is very likely to listen to their input. Keep this in mind if your legislator can’t meet with you, but a staff member can.
Thanks all around. If a legislator or staff member takes time to meet or speak with you, send a thank you note. In the letter, be sure to mention your conversation and ask for his or her continued support.