James Gill’s recent commentary that chastised legislators by saying if they really wanted to know what Tony the Tiger thinks of his current accommodations at the Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, “they need only to imagine how they would like living in a cage, or in Grosse Tete or outside a truck stop, let alone all three,” went far beyond the acceptable journalistic etiquette as well as revealed his personal insensitivity.

To allege that the citizens of Grosse Tete are in any way responsible for a business owner displaying a Bengal tiger and infer that to live near this environment is an indication of some deficient mental capacity is reprehensible. Adding insult to injury, he criticized the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, whose political lineage is unequaled in personal and professional contributions to this area of the state, and to question his integrity seemingly because he represents someone that Gill doesn’t approve of is just mean-spirited. He was only doing what any other legislator would have done for a voter, no matter where in the state the truck stop would have been located. With all of the many years of litigation over this matter, it just culminated during his shift.

We all agree that Tony’s life would have been better had he been born in the wild, and his living accommodations are by no means ideal, but his life has certainly not been wasted in vain. He has brought happiness to countless thousands of weary travelers, especially children who have never seen such a magnificent creature and may never again. He might even enjoy all of the attention, with all of the cameras going off each day and such movie star media attention. Our heritage is deeply rooted in one of the most pristine and wild areas on Earth —the Atchafalaya Basin. Wild and domestic animals are an integral part of our lives; we inherently care for them and we well understand the natural order of things.

We have been accused of, but assuredly don’t believe in, killing the messenger, but we feel that the messenger’s job is simply to deliver the message, not pass judgment on the citizens where the message is being delivered. When he did that, Gill crossed the line.

Hopefully, the irony that Gov. Bobby Jindal, of Indian descent, has the dubious honor of determining the future of a Bengal tiger will not be lost on our colorful Louisiana political history.

We would appreciate an apology from Gill to the citizens of Grosse Tete, and I would imagine the Ward family would welcome one as well.

Michael Chauffe

mayor, Village of Grosse Tete