Meet Esther The Wonder Pig, Who's Changing -- And Saving -- Lives
Last week, one of our community members introduced The Dodo to Esther the Wonder Pig, the portly Facebook celebrity who grew to be a huge force in her adoptive parents' lives -- literally. When Toronto pair Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter first met Esther, they were under the impression that she was a "mini pig," but it didn't take long for them to learn that there was nothing "mini" about their new pet.
Although Jenkins and Walter knew from the start that Esther was special, they learned that she was ordinary in at least one way: this pig kept growing and growing and then growing some more until she weighed almost 400 pounds. The affection Jenkins and Walter have for their pig, however, grew as fast as she did. Early on, they began to notice how similar Esther was to their dogs: she was highly intelligent and loving -- but also a bit of a trouble-maker.
"It's like having a two-year-old running around," Jenkins said. "We had to child-proof our whole house. We had to lock doors -- to the basement, to cabinets, to bedrooms -- because Esther figured out how to open them."
Now that she's settled in, Esther's gotten a bit easier to live with -- but it took time. "It took about a year," Jenkins told me. "I can't tell you how many times I'd sit on the floor with her, bawling my eyes out thinking we'd made a mistake and that we were going to have to get rid of her."
But that was never really an option, he added. "I couldn't bear the thought of her being back on a farm, which was really the only place she'd be able to go at her size."
Around the same time Jenkins and Walter fully accepted Esther into their family, they became aware of just how misrepresented the pig's past had been. A vet alerted them to the fact that Esther's tail had been clipped, which rarely (if ever) happens with pet pigs. Commercial pigs that are raised to be eaten, however, have their tails clipped almost immediately after birth.
"She's big, but she's not as big as the average commercial pig, so we think she was the runt of the litter," Jenkins explained. "Runts are usually killed separately while the rest go to the slaughterhouse, so we have no idea how she got away." It's possible that Esther escaped, or that by a stroke of luck she fell from the truck that was transporting her to a darker fate.
Jenkins and Walter subscribe to a different version of the story, though. "We like to hope that the person who was supposed to kill her couldn't do it," Jenkins said. According to him, it's not out of the question; he has received a number of message from people who say that just knowing about Esther has made them re-evaluate their relationships with all animals.
Jenkins and Walter feel similarly. A few weeks after they adopted Esther, both men began to question their dietary habits, wondering how they had come to conclude that some pets were "friends" and others "food." Then, one night, while they were making dinner, the two men had a lightbulb moment.
"We were making breakfast for dinner, actually, and there was bacon on the stove," Jenkins recalled. "Esther was standing in the kitchen next to us, and I remember that Derek looked at her, and then he looked at the stove, and then he looked at me. It was like we both realized the same thing at exactly the same time." Eating meat wasn't a question anymore. "We threw the bacon in the trash and we were done," Jenkins said.
Shortly thereafter, both he and Walter decided to pursue a fully vegan lifestyle. As they explain on the Esther the Wonder Pig Facebook page, "If you took just a few minutes to learn how brutal life is for these loving, intelligent and compassionate animals, I know it would change your mind and maybe even convince you to give a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle a chance."
Jenkins says the biggest challenge has been learning just how many everyday products negatively affect the lives of animals. But in the end, the change has been worth it. "It's really hard to separate Esther from the pigs on farms," Jenkins explained. "It's hard to describe. I know people don't want to think about it, but we don't have a choice. We love Esther and that's all we can think about -- and she was supposed to be on that farm."
When asked why he's most glad to have Esther in his life -- instead of on his plate -- Jenkins said it's because she's changed him for the better. "She really is like a little person," he concluded. "I've never met or experienced a relationship with and animal the way I have with Esther. There's something about her -- it's her eyes. When you look into her face, there's just a whole different level of consciousness... There's something there."
"Well," Jenkins added, "not something -- someone."