Snappy Page Essence
Lobbying is a democratic process, open to anyone, to communicate to the powerholders to do what you want them to do.
"It is the province of honest men to enlighten the government." Attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte.
What is Lobbying?
The thrust for changing the human governed world for the better for animals is essentially two-pronged. One prong involves law-making for animals (the other is educating people about animals). In order to make laws you must become a legislator, but we all cannot do this. The next best thing is to influence the legislators and this is what lobbying is about. You go lobbying to persuade the legislators - your political representatives, elected political officials, senators or members of parliament - to do what you want them to do: change or enact laws that benefit animals or otherwise support your cause. The origin of the term lobbying is lost, but it might be connected with cornering and petitioning politicians in the foyers or lobbies of their building. However, lobbying is not confined to political representatives; you can influence local or national institutions, businesses, colleges and any organisation to adopt animal friendly ways for their establishment.
Who Can Lobby?
Lobbying is democratic; it is an important process that gives people a say in political, economic and other polices. Political representatives in democratic countries are elected by the people to serve the people. You are one of the people, so representatives must serve you, especially if you are one of their constituents, by bringing their political standing to bear on your concerns.
The lobbying field is open to anyone or any group. You do not have to be a powerful business corporation that retains professional lobbyists or employs their own specialist staff to lobby for them. Nor do you need any particular experience to go lobbying, just a desire to communicate what you think should be done. No one and no group is too small to make their voice heard. If you do not make yourself heard, the policy makers cannot take into account your opinions and animals will not benefit. By lobbying for animals you change the way society acts by harnessing the power of the law for animals.
What & Who to Lobby
What do you want to lobby for? You may want to:
- Prohibit toxicity testing of substances on animals.
- Change the law to prohibit live exports of animals.
- Ban inhumane jaw traps and snares used by animal trappers.
- Proscribe the production or selling of foie gras, veal and animal body parts.
- Introduce stiffer and more appropriate penalties for animal abusers.
- Change the law about how animals are transported.
- Prohibit the importation and trade of live wild animals or their body parts.
- Propose new laws to regulate breeders of animals.
- Proscribe the mutilation of animals for cosmetic and economic purposes.
- Regulate or make illegal the keeping of wild animals as pets.
You may have to address national political representatives to lobby for such changes as these. But although lobbying is often associated with high-level political representatives, you can just as effectively lobby anyone, such as the figures who have access to the policy makers and legislators. These relatively minor officials hold a variety of positions from local to national level. Furthermore, you can just as easily lobby institutions and business companies whose activities affect animals more directly or who have the power to help animals. You could persuade your supermarket to change its policy on selling factory farmed produce; lobby your work or school canteen to ban factory farmed food and offer choices for vegetarians; or lobby your college professors to organise courses on animal rights or animal ethics. Representatives of private organisations, unlike our political representatives, are not obliged to assist you but should respond if they want to be seen by the public as honest, caring and open to change.
First, ask yourself four questions.
- Issue: what specific issue shall I campaign about?
For example, livestock transport, entertainment animals, furbearers (for ideas see Chapter 3: How to Start Being Active for Animal Rights?).
- Objective: what is my specific campaign objective?
For example, to change a law or to change a procedure, such as governing how animals are kept or used.
- Authority: which authority shall I lobby?
For example, the Secretary for Agriculture, the Home Secretary, or a company's chief executive officer.
- Method: what lobbying methods shall I use to persuade the authority?
For example, write letters, arrange private face to face meeting or debates.
Second, find out who your targets are, such as who politically represents you. Good lobbyists do not just know who their representatives are but get to know about them. This way you know you are targeting the right people and can make the best impression on them. For political representatives you should at least know their political party, political status or rank, past and present campaigns, and their involvement with animals.
You can most easily find out who represents you by consulting your library or the Web. Virtually every citizen in the US is represented federally by a member of the House of Representatives and by two members of the Senate. Most US states have this same system of representation. Note that you must lobby federal representatives on federal matters and lobby state representatives on state maters because representatives deal only within their own sphere. Voters in Britain are represented nationally by their Member of Parliament and voters who reside in Scotland or Wales are represented by their member of their particular legislative assembly.
Third, know what your target can do for you. For example your representative in your legislative assembly could:
How to Lobby
- Write officially to relevant ministers or other representatives on your behalf.
- Convey your issue at a committee meeting.
- Address the whole political assembly about your campaign.
- Ask a question from the floor on your behalf to elicit information from a minister.
- Propose an early day motion (a petition for representatives to sign) as part of your campaign.
- Set up a committee to study your issue.
- Initiate a parliamentary debate about your cause.
- Introduce a draft law on animals for debate.
- Attempt to alter an existing draft law.
- Propose changes to statutory law.
- Support or impede legislation.
- Attend your public gatherings and make speeches to support your campaign.
The primary means of lobbying your target is to write, arrange personal meetings, and use the news media.
1. Lobby by Writing
Writing a letter to your representative or other target is possibly the best way to make initial contact and state your case. Paper documents give a target something to study at leisure and refer back to.
- Be concise; one page is probably sufficient. Keep to one subject per letter so as not to cloud the issue.
- Do not make more than two or three points or there will be too much for your representatives to handle.
- Put the main points (the who, why, where and when) in the first paragraph.
- Include supporting information, evidence, photos, but do not overdo it; if you have a lot of data, summarise them on a separate sheet.
- When writing to your representative always include your address and zip / post code so that they can verify that you are one of their constituents, otherwise they may not act for you.
- End by asking politely for a response to your letter.
Make your letter personal. Put one or two specific questions to your target and ask for their opinion; they will take your letter more seriously. If you do not do this, they might simply forward your letter to somebody who seems to them to be a pertinent third party, like a government department that handles such matters that might send you a bland standard reply.
You will have more influence if you get other people to write as well. Your representative might keep count of the letters they receive as a check of public opinion and the more letters they receive on your subject the more influence you will have. If possible try not to send a standard or model letter when writing as part of an organised group. Your representatives will give duplicated letters far less weight and an unfavourable response, even if they get a great many of them on the same topic. If you do use a standard text, get each writer to subtract some remarks from their letter, add singular remarks of their own, and mix it all up to make their letter look personalised.
What about emailing or phoning? Email is quick and cheap but may not be effective if your target is swamped by them every day. Your particular email may not receive the attention it deserves or might simply get lost in the flood of email. Letter writing is slow and arduous but is likely to get a better response.
Phoning is fast. But you will probably not be able to speak to your representative by phone as they are likely to be out or busy. However, if you are going to phone then jot down and stick to just one or two points that you wish to make. When you get through say you are a constituent and keep your conversation short.
2. Lobby by Personal Meetings
Elected representatives expect to be approached by the public as part of the democratic process, so do not feel inhibited. Go ahead and arrange a meeting with your target to present your case in person. You should certainly meet them if the results of your correspondence are unsatisfactory.
You may visit your representatives alone or, more effectively, as a small group campaigning on your issue. Each member of the group should have a good reason for being at the meeting and with something different to contribute. Decide beforehand who is going to lead the meeting and who is going to say what.
How you come across at the meeting and how you say what you have to say is important. Dress casually or conservatively but dress appropriately. Be rational and objective, not emotional and excitable. Speak clearly and concisely. Know your background facts well and summarise them on a single page to hand to your target. Give duplicate copies to any of their staff. Thank everyone before you depart and leave your target with a good impression of what an animal rights activist is.
Representatives in the US fix a number of public meetings through the year to meet their constituents. At these meetings you should prepare yourself to ask your representative questions in front of a public gathering that may also contain news reporters. Ask your representative to speak about their stand on your issue and make things hot for them if they go against you. Alternatively, your representative might decide to meet you on the side at a private office and a typical meeting could last an hour. You could take the opportunity to hand out leaflets about your campaign to other attendees at the meeting who are not part of your group. Members of Parliament in Britain hold regular sessions in their constituency every few weeks when you can sit with them and speak privately. Check your target's web site for particulars and make an appointment.
3. Lobby via the News Media
Another way of influencing your targets and to strengthen your cause is through the local or national news media. Use the media to:
- Spur lethargic targets to action.
- Make your targets take you even more seriously.
- Pressure your targets into publicly stating their position.
- Give your targets bad publicity if they do bad things.
- Give your targets good publicity if they act well.
Phone or email your newspaper and radio/tv stations and outline what you are doing. News media interest is often short-term, so get your timing right to approach them at the best point in your campaign. Beware that editors simplify issues as black or white, so there is no point going into the minutiae of your case; make your message simple and clear. Use the media to gain widespread public support for your cause, especially if you are not able to achieve your objectives through your target. (Also see Chapter 3: News Media.)
Learn the House Rules
You must learn the rules of your target organisation (legislative assembly, business company or whatever) to understand their manners and methods to prepare yourself to influence them. If you do not know their rules, ask them.
Set Attainable Goals
Try for goals that are achievable. Stopping egg farming is too sweeping, but phasing out the production and sale of eggs from caged hens is attainable, whether from your supermarket chain or nationally.
Be Flexible & Compromising
Perhaps you cannot make headway or you know your target is not in favour of animal rights, then simply operate under the banner of animal welfare and adjust your goal so that it appears welfare oriented. Politics and influencing people is the art of compromise when you cannot be autocratic.
Pitch the Right Level of Information
Present your target with whatever information is strictly relevant and no more. They will not want to waste time with excessive and non-essential input.
Stick to Facts Not Feelings
You have opinions, but base them on indisputable facts and put them across in reasoned arguments. Know the important arguments for and against your case and be able to refute the latter rationally.
Always Go for Clarity
Do not use abbreviations or unusual, obscure or technical terms that your target may not know. Get your message across simply and quickly, so spell it out fully.
Always Tell Them
Be specific, clear and polite about what action you want your target to take. An action may seem obvious to you but not to them and they will not want to waste their time guessing.
Do Not Rely on Memory
Always make written notes of what is said, the decisions that are made and the names of the people you talk to. Take notes at a meeting even if you are only listening as an observer.
Build Up Your Credibility
You need not be an infallible expert but always be open and tell the truth (or at least use your words carefully) to build up your credibility. This is the best way to impress on your target that they can rely on your knowledge.
Get the Weight of Authority Behind You
Individuals acting alone can lobby effectively, but you can be more effective if you have authoritative associates to bolster your case. Your target will be more ready and better able to act to influence others if they know your issue has weight behind it.
Link to Your Target's Interests
Try to relate your issue to your target's area of personal or professional interests. For instance, you might be lobbying about blood sports and they are keen countryside ramblers or sit on countryside committees. This is where knowing about your target's background is advantageous.
Be Above Party Politics
Eschew party politics when lobbying. Lobby to get the best out of everyone irrespective of their political alliances, affiliations and the party they belong to.
Do Not Make Enemies
Your target should listen to you but they do not have to agree with you. Be courteous to them when their views are at odds with your own because you may be able to influence them another time on a different issue. Make enemies of them and you may never be able to enlist their help.
Go for the Staff
Always be polite, understanding and patient to your target's personal assistants, secretaries and other office staff. They are your potential allies. They might influence your target for you or reciprocate your kindness by giving you background or other useful information.
Analyse Your Progress
Monitor your progress and evaluate your results. You can best do this by setting small practicable goals you must reach on your way to total success. (More in Chapter 3: Action Planning.)
Thank people who are helpful and if you have the news media involved with your campaign drop them names in praise.
Keep on going if you do not get the responses you hoped for. Think about reaching the same goal from a different angle. Be persistent and do not give up easily!
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