Ha, spoke too soon. The paper published my letter after all! And apart from editing the first paragraph (they broke it up into three, and deleted the last sentence), they kept the rest intact and even put it in the featured letter spot thus improving its chances of being read. Have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, and even more so when I received a call the next day from a reader who had taken the time to look up my name in the phone book in order to thank me for writing it. No negative replies in the following edition either (which I half expected), although maybe that's still coming. All in all, a positive experience.
But reading Striking at the Root's chapter on letter writing before doing this again still stands, and I agree with Anne's comment on my post: I would not respond to his diatribe, nor defend us against his allegations about activists, but rather present clearly the facts surrounding beings captured for the sole purpose of our entertainment. It's a good point, and something I didn't do, although hopefully would do next time.
It's a suggestion (using clear facts) SatR* made too, so I thought I'd take the opportunity here to outline a few of their other suggestions as well:
- be concise and focus on the most important issue
- be polite and professional
- include information on how an issue will affect readers personally
- respond to positive stories as well as negative ones
- direct letters to readers and not the author of the piece you're responding to
- don't assume readers already know about the issue you're referring to
- tell them something they may not know
- write in the affirmative and include positive suggestions for change
- show how other animals have a wide range of emotions
- be friendly and a good role model for animal activists
Oops, I clearly didn't read this chapter before writing my own letter, and the above suggestions would certainly have been good to follow, but I can't honestly say I regret my first attempt. And if one reader felt compelled enough to reach out to me, who knows how many others took some of the letter to heart? :)
* Mark Hawthorne, Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism pp. 35-37
p.s. I'm afraid I'll be MIA for a little while longer -- hope everyone's keeping well!