In a recent column, Lakeland Ledger environmental writer Tom Palmer accused ARFF of “environmental ignorance” for our suggestion that after 500 years of living in Florida, wild pigs should be considered a native Florida animal. We admit that it’s a challenging idea.

Palmer argues that wild pigs can be destructive, but so can other animals. Like pigs, armadillos damage lawns and gardens when rooting for food. In northern Florida, farmers are angry about deer eating their crops. Cormorants and other fish-eating birds are a big problem at aquaculture facilities in Florida. Even tiny bats can cause problems when they roost in buildings in large numbers. (Palmer also claims, but offers nothing more than anecdotal evidence, that wild pigs prey on native wildlife and spread disease.) ARFF would support creative, humane methods of reducing the pig population in areas where they are causing problems.

Unfortunately, Palmer does not address our main point: that the “non-native” designation for wild pigs has been used as justification for horrible acts of violence against these animals, cruelties that would not be ignored if suffered by “native” wildlife. For example, Florida hunters use packs of dogs, and primitive weapons like knives and spears, to chase down and kill wild pigs. Pigs are often castrated, without anesthesia, by hunters who then release the animal in the belief that he will grow fatter and have better-tasting flesh when captured in the future.

As tempting as it may be to turn the clock back to the year 1500, that’s not going to happen. Florida’s environment has changed dramatically since Europeans first arrived. It is unrealistic to demand that Florida’s wildlife look the same as when Ponce de León stepped off the boat.

ARFF will continue to speak up for these intelligent, adaptable animals. We hope that in the future Floridians will view wild pigs with compassion and understanding.