It’s not every day a pig inspires a nation, yet that’s exactly what Esther The Wonder Pig did during her short time on earth. At the age of 11, Esther passed away in her sleep on October 19 with her dad by her side. A post on Esther’s Facebook page revealed:
“Even though Esther is no longer physically with us, her memory and legacy will live forever. Esther is immortal, and we will continue to show the world that all animals deserve to be loved just like she was.”
An outpouring of love spread quickly, which is no surprise since Esther was adored worldwide by her fans and a huge social media star with millions of loyal followers. A decade before Esther became a mighty pig celebrity, my son and I had the privilege of meeting her, as did many Animal Save Movement (ASM) activists. We played ball with Esther in the backyard, gave her cuddles, and shared treats. Since that visit years ago, Esther’s dads and co-parents, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, launched Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary in 2014. Located in Campbellville, Ontario, this 50-acre farm sanctuary is home to many rescued animals, including chickens, ducks, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, and other pigs that are now free to live the rest of their lives in peace.
“Our mission is to rescue abused, neglected, and abandoned farmed animals; provide a safe, life-long home for all of our sanctuary residents; educate the public about the true nature of farmed animals; and promote the health and well-being of farmed animals everywhere.”
Esther inspired the world to be kinder to animals through heartwarming photos and videos, and many people become vegan after making the connection that Esther is no different than the pigs they were eating. Esther was also the inspiring subject of the New York Times best-selling book, Esther The Wonder Pig: Changing The World One Heart At A Time. This hilarious and charming story follows Esther and her dads and their life-changing decision to open the sanctuary.
On the farm, Esther had her own bedroom with a king-sized piggie mattress and a loving family that adored her. Over the years, we watched Esther’s shenanigans with her dog besties Shelby and then Phil and a turkey named Cornelius. Sadly, the lives of animals are often too short, which is even more reason to do everything in our power to make their time on earth magical.
Esther Showed Us Pigs Are Individuals
The fun started in 2012 when Jenkins was offered a tiny “mico” piglet and Esther went to her forever home. Of course, we now know Esther was a full-sized pig that grew into a 600-pound princess. Born on a commercial pig farm, she had been cast aside because she was a “runt.” But with the help of her dads, Esther captured hearts around the world. From eating cupcakes, dressing in the most outrageous costumes, and giving that big toothy grin to the camera, people fell in love with Esther’s heart and smile and “The Esther Effect” began. Esther was always making us laugh, and people made the connection that the bacon, pork, and ham they were eating could have been Esther. Esther showed us pigs are individuals, something the animal agriculture industry is constantly trying to cover up by keeping farmed animals and slaughterhouses out of sight from the public. If more people realized pigs (and all animals exploited and killed for food) were intelligent, compassionate, curious, complex, and sentient beings, the world would be a kinder place. Esther showed us how amazing animals are and became an ambassador for other pigs who were not as lucky. Esther was someone, not something.
From Eating Animals To Becoming Activists
Esther inspired a passionate wave of activists that began with her dads. They became vegan after Esther moved in as they began to educate themselves on how pigs and all farmed animals, are treated by the factory farming industry. Jenkins and Walter believe change starts with education and an open mind and started Esther The Dark Side to share details of what animals go through before ending up on dinner plates.
New comments were always being posted to Esther’s social media pages under her photos that because of her they stopped eating animals. People around the world swapped out bacon, sausage, pork, and ham for healthy and kinder plant-based foods. This change in eating habits led many people to stop eating all animals and live a vegan lifestyle. Esther changed people’s opinions of pigs with her love of life, humour, spunky personality, kindness, and her affection for her dads and animal family. Her hilarious wigs, sunglasses, stylish accessories, and fancy outfits certainly didn’t hurt either. People became smitten with Esther’s smile and her dads received countless messages telling them how Esther changed their lives with everything from eating habits to bringing them happiness during dark days and helping them cope with tragedies. Esther became a happy place for people around the world to find comfort. Others took it a step further and became animal activists. It took a pig in a pretty dress with a huge personality to show the world that all pigs deserve love and kindness. Esther’s legacy will live on forever in the hearts of all those whose lives she affected.
Bear Witness To Pigs, They Are Just Like Esther
People around the world bear witness to pigs in trucks on the way to slaughter with ASM. The goal is to expose and dismantle animal exploitation industries and put glass walls on slaughterhouses. We bear witness to be present in the face of injustice, show animals love and compassion in the final hours of their lives and tell their stories to the world. Bearing witness animals brings humans face to face with these beautiful sentient creatures that just want to live. When I attended vigils with ASM and looked into pig’s eyes I saw their soul and personality. I saw pigs arriving at the slaughterhouse terrified, physically sick with body sores, screaming, confused, and many covered in fecal matter. They were all aware of what was happening.
In 2015 a transport truck carrying three to four-month-old pigs crashed just before arriving at the gates of Fearmans Slaughterhouse in Ontario. An emergency vigil was organized and activists, including one of Esther’s dads, Steve, rushed to the scene. Fearmans employees attempted to hide the horrific view of injured screaming pigs using cardboard panels when they saw activists were documenting the chaotic accident. Steve offered to rescue two of the injured pigs and take them back to Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. Sadly, no mercy was given to them. One of the pigs was eventually taken into the slaughterhouse, and the second pig that activists named Bonnie needed urgent medical attention and was too sick to be killed for food. Rather than let Bonnie get the help she needed and a forever home with Esther, she was killed in front of the activists.
ASM is dedicated to raising awareness about animal abuse at slaughterhouses through non-violence and uses a love-based approach to change the world for the better. It is an inclusive and welcoming method to shut down all animal farms and slaughterhouses and transition people towards plant-based diets. The Plant Based Treaty promotes this shift towards eating more sustainable plant-based foods, combat the climate crisis, and actively reverse the damage done to our planet. Many of Esther’s fans have attended pig vigils, and it is not too late to join one and be the voice for animals. Esther the Wonder Pig’s memory will live on forever and the best way to honour her is to stop eating animals.
How you can help:
- Download your free vegan action starter kit to get started with a plant-based diet.
- Sign the Plant Based Treaty. Your signature will help put pressure on national governments to negotiate an international Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement. The treaty calls for system changes such as an end to the expansion of animal agriculture, the redirection of subsidies and public information campaigns, and restoration and reforestation on land and sea.