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Respectfully Irate: My Thoughts on (Effectively) Advocating for Animals in Letters to the Editor

By Robin Lamont — December 30, 2014

letters-to-the-editorLast week I wrote yet another letter to our local paper regarding bow hunting, and it got me thinking about animal advocacy in letters to the editor.

Our rural community decided that they have a “problem” with too many deer, so the town has established a “deer management program” that allows hunters to shoot them with bows and arrows. I am against hunting to begin with, but find this method of killing animals particularly abhorrent. So I’ve been protesting. A couple of years ago I attended a town board meeting and spoke about the cruelty of bow hunting, but the hunt went on. Lately, my protest has taken the form of letters to the editor of our local newspaper in hopes of changing the town’s mindset.

I reach many more people with a printed letter than I do flailing my arms at a sparsely attended and unwelcoming town board meeting. And because our weekly paper covers more than just our town, I know that I’m reaching the neighboring communities as well.

Furthermore, getting a letter printed in the paper is satisfying – a mini version of getting an article or book published. Of course, our local newspaper prints every letter sent to them. Still, my neighbors and acquaintances I run into at the grocery store notice, and I like to think they eye me with a bit more gravitas. Either that, or I’ve become “that crazy anti-bow hunting lady,” which in itself is a form of status and one with which I would not be unhappy.

Here’s the tougher issue, though. How far does one go in a letter? For instance, my last missive was in response to an article about the town board’s concern that hunters might lose patience and take their sport elsewhere – all because the hunters were having to wait up to 36 hours before seeing a deer to kill. The letter I wanted to write is as follows:

To the Editor: Are you f***ing kidding me?! Hunters are killing and wounding deer with barbaric weapons that cause immense suffering, and the town is worried that the hunters are gonna get bored? I thought the whole reason they want to go out and kill animals is to “experience the great outdoors.” You’re all a sick bunch!

But this won’t work. I, myself, refuse to read any letter that starts, “Let me get this straight…” Sarcasm can be effective in conversation accompanied by exaggerated facial expressions – not so much in a letter. So I wonder if I should write this:

To the Editor: I read with interest the town board’s concern that hunters are having to wait 36 hours to obtain their harvest. Does this suggest that the deer “problem” is not what it might seem?

No, that doesn’t work either. I’m angry! But I don’t think that I help the animals by being shrill and having readers dismiss me as a fanatic. My zeal is better used in perseverance rather than a one-off letter. So I compromised with a tone that I hope was irate, but respectful. Not respectful to authority, but to the stage, with an appreciation of the opportunity to communicate my views.

To the Editor: I was astounded to learn in last week’s article “Hunters Pull in the Deer” that the administrators of the deer management program are concerned that the hunters may not be able to tolerate too much time in the woods before they make a successful kill. This is odd since one only hears from hunters that the thrill is not so much in the actual shooting of the deer as the exhilarating time spent in the great outdoors. Nonetheless, if our hunters (euphemistically referred to as ‘deer managers’) are having to spend 36 hours waiting to see a deer, perhaps the deer problem isn’t quite what the administrators make it out to be.

white-tail-deerI went on to explain wounding and crippling rates, how intensely the animal suffers, and the humane alternatives to controlling the deer population. It’s important to propose what you think ought to be done to address a perceived problem. I do confess I got a bit snarky when I reminded readers that bow hunting “is not a Robin Hood fantasy.” But they needed to hear that because it’s exactly what they do imagine. Several residents have come up to me to say that they appreciate my efforts. That’s nice. However, I am starting to challenge them and suggest that if they agree with me, they should join the protest and voice their opinions in whatever form they choose. Silence is not an option. And in the meantime, I will continue to look for appropriate articles to which I can respond in a letter. Who knows? Maybe I can convince some people to join me and together we can make a difference for the deer.

I remain respectfully (and irately) yours,

Robin Lamont



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