Her face can brighten up my day. Her impish grim puts a smile on my face and makes me wonder what mischief she has been up to. When I think my friends need a ray of sunshine I repost her picture on Facebook. Who is this mystery gal? Why it is none other than Esther the Wonder Pig. Esther, who turned two meat eating men from Georgetown into vegans, who are now raising money to open a sanctuary for rescued farm animals.
I first discovered Esther in early December last year. Her smiling face kept showing up on my Facebook feed. By December 15th she had 1,800 Facebook likes. How do I know this? Because this was the day I emailed my friend Anita Krajnc, the founder of Toronto Pig Save and introduced her to Steve Jenkins, one of Esther’s dads. As of today Esther has 118,000 Facebook likes and growing.
She and her Dad’s have been featured on PETA’s website, Mercy for the Animals, Ellen Generes’ good news blog, The Huffington Post, City TV, CHCH News Hamilton, CBC National News, and numerous other media sites around the world. Her fame and popularity are growing at an astornomical rate.
What is it about Esther that has made her so popular?
Nothing and everything
Esther was born in the summer of 2012. She came into the lives of Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter a few weeks later when someone called Steve and offered to sell him a “micropig”. He was told Esther was six months old and wouldn’t grow to be more that 70lbs. Without consulting with Derek, Steve agreed to buy Esther and she joined their furry family of two dogs and two cats.
It was not until they took Esther to the vet and he noticed that her tail was cropped, a standard procedure on factory farms, that they discovered that Esther was no micropig but a six-week old full-sized pig, and that she would grow to several hundred pounds. But by then it was too late, because Steve and Derek were in love.
When Steve and Derek first brought Esther home they were meat eaters. Bacon was a staple in their house. It was only a day or two after bringing her home that they made the conection and stopped the bacon altogether. They started watching documentaries on factory farms and how they operated and couldn’t stop thinking about Esther and what her life would have been like if she had been left there. She had such personality and intelligence and was becoming more and more like their dogs every day – but smarter! In fact dad Steve said:
“She is so smart it blows our minds almost daily. Here’s an example: Early on she learned where we kept our “human” food. She figured out how to open the cupboards and would pull everything out in a panic trying to eat anything she could. This usually resulted in her getting caught by us and sent for a “time out.”
Within a couple of weeks she started breaking the process down into steps. She would open the cupboard then walk away as if she was waiting to see if we heard her. Then she would go back and pull out the basket, and walk away again. Finally, on the third trip she would grab what she wanted and literally RUN out of the kitchen to the bedrooms frantically trying to eat her prize. It was as if she knew her chances of success were greater if she took her time and didn’t cause a fuss”
She was right! They have since moved all their food to the upper cabinets.
Although raising a 400 lb pig is not for the faint of heart, Steve and Derek do not regret making the decision to welcome Esther into their lives. When they first started Esther’s Facebook page on December 4th they thought a few of their family and friends would like it. They were not expecting that they would be taken for the ride of a lifetime, one that would forever change them, and thousands of people around the world.
What makes Esther so special is nothing and everything
Nothing in that Esther is no different than the 35,000 young pigs that are slaughtered each week in one abatoir in downtown Toronto.
Everything, because like each of those young pigs, Esther is an individual. She has her own personality, her own charm. She is unique.
Everything because unlike the young pigs that suffer on factory farms Esther is very loved.
Loved by Steve, Derek, and Shelby the dog, her best friend. Loved by the thousands of Facebook fans who follow her everyday. Loved by the people whose eyes and hearts were opened by Esther and are now vegan.
Unlike her sisters and brothers who were murdered when they were 4-6 months old, Esther is now almost 2 years old. Unlike her mother who lived her whole life caged in a pen so small she could not even turn around in, Esther has a warm house, a backyard and a loving family to share it with.
Esther’s two dads Steve and Derek and very, very special people. They take pictures of Esther and post funny, endearing captions that make us fall in love with her.
They want to show the world that Esther understands everything they say to her. That she knows what’s happening and feels every emotion we do. That she is not a product or a piece of pork. That Esther is as much a part of their family as your dog or cat or child.
I belong to an organization called Toronto Pig Save that bears witness to the young pigs that are murdered at the Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse. Seven thousand per day. Thirty-five thousand per week. All Esther’s. Beautiful, intelligent, sentient beings. When the slaugherhouse trucks stop at the intersection we talk to the pigs and take their pictures. We bear witness to their fear, and their suffering and their death. When we talk to these babies they look at us and listen. Their eyes, which look so much like human eyes, plead with us to help them. But we can’t. We watch as the trucks drive away, and then watch as they return, empty, after unloading 200 Esther’s into a holding pen awaitng their death in the gas chamber. A death neither painless, nor quick.
Pigs are the most intelligent domesticated animal. They are the fourth most intelligent non-human animal in the world. They are smarter than a three-year old human.
Yet we strip eveything beautiful and joyful away from them and condemn them to a life of unbearable sufferering.
Esther and her dads are changing the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. She is touching people in a way that education cannot.
Steve Jenkins said:
“We want people to see how smart and loving pigs are and make the connection between the millions of pigs that suffer their whole lives in factory farms. She’s exactly like them! The only difference is she got a chance….The pig you all see and love is just giving it back to us like any pig would if you let them.”
Esther is not a nameless piece of meat, wrapped in saran wrap at the grocery story. She is funny, loving, charming beauty that deserves to live. Don’t all the Esthers?
So what makes Esther different from the pigs on factory farms and in abattoirs? Esther was given a chance. Esther is loved.
Winston Churchill said:
” A cat looks down upon a man, and a dog looks up to a man, but a pig will look man in the eye and see his equal.”
Perhaps it is time we did the same.
From my speech to Rainbow Toastmasters, Monday March 24, 2014
Photos courtesy of Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and Vanessa Sarges
PDF slideshow of Esther The Wonder Pig