We never planned to buy a pig. Getting Esther was totally unplanned. An acquaintance from school contacted me online and said she had a mini pig that needed a home. We had never considered a pet pig before, but I had always been an animal lover so I was immediately intrigued. I said I would get back to her but within a few hours I got a second message saying somebody else was interested so I needed to decide right away. I had already allowed myself to get somewhat excited about the idea so I agreed… despite the fact that my partner Derek had no idea what I had just done. It was a little tense for a few days but needless to say Esther’s charm was too much for anyone to resist and we both fell in love with her almost immediately.
Naturally we assumed she was a mini pig until we first took her to the vet, a couple of weeks later. He noticed her cropped tail and said it was a clear sign that she was in fact a ‘commercial’ pig and not a mini pig at all.
We wondered from the start when she would stop growing! Right now she weighs approximately 650lbs and she’s just over two years old, so she should be very close to fully grown – I hope! Not much makes it to the compost bin since she moved in. She eats ‘pig kibble’ which looks a lot like rabbit food, plus plenty of fresh fruit and veggies – anything we eat, she can have.
Her lifespan should be in the 10–15 year range but sadly not too many of her kind make it to their senior years so it’s a bit of a guess. Many large pigs in existing sanctuaries live for 12 years or more, so we’re hopeful Esther will be no different.
Her personality is incredible. She’s like a person in the sense that she wakes up a little slowly and she’s sometimes grumpy. She loves to cuddle and wrestle outside. She always seems to be thinking something and you can see it in her eyes.
We already had dogs and cats when Esther arrived and they’re all great together. She’s very much part of the ‘pack’ as far as the dogs are concerned. The cats interact with her very much the same way as they do the dogs. So the animals didn’t have any big reactions to her, but she changed our lives. We have become vegan since Esther arrived. She caused us to make a connection we had never made before, when we realised that although she was so special to us, she was also just like the millions of pigs in farms around the world. Suddenly we couldn’t enforce a line between companion animals and food. Until Esther arrived, we had always thought we loved animals, but she helped us see that there was a whole group of animals that we had completely forgotten. She could’ve been on our dinner plates and that’s heartbreaking to us.
There’s something really special in her eyes that’s very hard to explain. We’ve always had dogs and cats but she’s different, there’s a level of awareness that we had never experienced before.
We live in a town where having her as a pet is against the local bylaws. With that in mind, we kept her very much hidden for the first 18 months we had her. Last Christmas we decided to start a separate Facebook page (facebook.com/estherthewonderpig) just so that we could show friends and family what she was up to. We were trying to keep her a secret! We had no idea it would turn into the phenomenon it has become. Our heads are still spinning.
I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of messages we receive from people around the world telling us Esther has opened their eyes to why eating animals is wrong. We’ve given her a voice and allowed people to connect with her on a personal level. We hear everything, from very young children connecting Esther to bacon and refusing to eat it, right up to 80–year–old grandparents who gave up their Sunday ham because they just couldn’t get Esther’s face out of their minds. We call it ‘the Esther effect’ and it’s the reason we’ve invested so much time and energy into keeping it going. Knowing that she’s having the same effect as she had on us, with people all over the world via photos and videos is the most incredible experience of our lives.
Esther’s social media presence has turned into a full time job for both of us. We’ve completely changed direction in our professional lives, and now we’re planning to open a farm animal sanctuary. We launched a crowd funding campaign in May, and raised over $440,000 in just 60 days. We’ve just purchased a 46 acre farm near Toronto and we’re going to call the sanctuary ‘Happily Ever Esther’. Esther will have all the space she could ever need and we’ll be able to rescue commercial farm animals of all kinds. We plan to open to the public by mid 2015.
Esther has taken us on an incredible journey that we never expected.
To say it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement.