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Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

Get Ready to Fall in Love With Esther the Wonder Pig

Written by Michelle Kretzer | January 16, 2014

Persuaded by a friend who wanted to find a home for a young “micro-pig,” Toronto couple Derek Walter and Steve Jenkins welcomed piglet Esther into their lives. But it soon became apparent that they had all been misled—this was no micro-pig. Esther grew bigger every day, and soon she towered over the couple’s two dogs.

Esther the Pig with Dog Friends

Derek and Steve surmised that Esther had been born on a commercial farm and had been cast aside because she was a “runt.” But if the couple was surprised to learn that their new companion animal had likely been destined for a dinner plate, they were even more surprised to see how similar Esther is to their dogs. She easily picked up how to sit for a treat and even how to open the refrigerator door to sniff out something yummy, such as an apple. She loves to play tug-of-war and tag and chew her toys, and naptime means finding the nearest dog or human to snuggle up to.

Esther the Pig Snuggling

Even though it soon became apparent how big Esther would get and how much care she would need, Derek and Steve couldn’t bear to part with her. As they put it, “This isn’t Esther’s fault, she didn’t ask for the life she was given. We have the chance to provide her with the life she deserves, not the one she was bred for. What kind of people would we be to deny her that?”

Esther the Pig on the Couch

As Esther continued to grow, she continued to grow closer to her dads. And soon Derek and Steve realized that the animals they had always called “dinner” weren’t so different from the animals they called “friends.” Before long, both men went vegan. They started a Facebook page to help other people see that all animals are thinking, feeling beings who value their families and their lives.

That was how PETA first learned about Esther the Wonder Pig. We contacted Derek and Steve and asked them to share a little more of their story with us, and we’re pleased to share it with you here.

What’s the number one thing you want people to know about pigs?

I wish people would be more aware of how amazingly smart and emotional pigs are. Despite her size, Esther wants nothing more than to cuddle when she naps. She will go out of her way to find us or the dogs to lie with. She loves to play tug-of-war and chew her toys. She also loves to play tag, and we chase each other around the backyard. She’ll run and bump my legs, then turn away as if it’s my turn to chase her. It’s hilarious and amazing. She’s also incredibly gentle. We feed her by hand and can put our fingers right in her mouth—granted we spend a ton of time with her so she is very socialized. This myth about pigs being vicious and mean couldn’t be more untrue. The only time we see any aggression from Esther is if she’s scared. I can only imagine how afraid pigs in factory farms are, and although I’m no behavior expert, I have to assume their anger in farms stems from the same thing: They’re afraid. When given the chance to be loved and to be themselves, pigs are social, friendly, loving, and sensitive animals.

How has having Esther changed your life?

Our life has changed in too many ways to count. First and foremost, she inspired us to be vegan, and we’re working toward that now. We have our diet under control and are learning how to ensure we stay consistent in other areas like clothing, furniture, etc. It was a big change, but we feel amazing about it. She also caused some changes at home that were interesting and unexpected. Because she’s so smart, we had to childproof everything! Food was moved to higher cupboards, and doors to some rooms are kept closed. She just really keeps us on our toes. We need to be very aware of anything we leave lying around the house because she will explore it … and eat it if she can.

How has Esther inspired you?

This is very hard to answer without sounding weird, but I’ll try. She really just inspired us to be better people as a whole. To be more aware of how our actions, as small as they may be, can have huge impacts down the line. To be aware of where the products we use come from and how we get them. She inspired us to try and show the world the horrors we support by ignoring the treatment of these animals in factory farms. I’m not going to say Esther isn’t special because she is, but let’s be honest.

All we’ve done is taken what was bred for somebody’s dinner and given her a chance to be herself. We want people to see Esther and make the connection between her and the millions of pigs exactly like her who weren’t so lucky. To show that, given the chance, these amazing animals grow to become the most amazing and compassionate animals you’ll ever meet. I look into her eyes, and I see someone looking straight back. Someone who knows and loves me just as we do her. I see someone, not something. 

“Like” Esther on Facebook to keep up with all her adventures and to help share her story.

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  • sosbaiji says:

    What a cool story!

  • Catherine says:

    My name is Catherine Lapiccirella, strange enough, also a canadian brought up in Toronto who now lives in Italy. I agree totally with what you have written about Esther. I also was given, by my daughter a so called “miniature black pot belly pig”, who’s name was Cinzia. She was the love of my life and I agree again only an animal can be a true friend and love and be loved back with out any compramizes. My Cinzia started out like an eggplant with four little legs. Before long she grew up to be a BIG GIRL, and didn’t pass by unobserved. She also grew up with my dogs and learned in her own way to bark when they did, I would take her out for walks like a dog with a special hand made leash made for her and to tell you the truth she was more obediant than my dogs. Only people like you can understand me because again people in general treat us like freaks, but after this experience I always say that I would rather have an animal as a friend and not a friend who acts like an animal. I kept my Cinzia for four years, I own a business, (a marina) in Vieste, (Foggia), Italy and still today after three years people ask me how my Cinzia is doing. I was stupid enough to be convinced by my husband to find her a better home in an open space since I had to leave all my pets for a month because my brother was getting married in Toronto and no one wanted to babysit my Cinzia. All, but one person who lives two towns away and assured me that because he had an agriturismo which is a place where many people assured me that she would have been fine. Concernd on her well being I even phoned from Toronto to Italy to know how she was doing, because I could only imagine how terrible she must of felt asking herself “where’s my mom??” ABANDONED!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    When I came back to Italy I continued to phone, but after only four months these people would hang up the phone once I would tell them who I was. I found out through others that my Cinzia passed away. My heart shatterd and I only blame myself. I hope that one day when my time comes to pass on to greener pastures my Cinzia will be waiting for me at the gate. P.S. Armani himself, (and I’m not making this up), saw her and exclaimed “WHO and not WHAT, is that???” and of course with great pride told him, “She is the NAOMI CAMPBELL OF VIESTE, my Cinzia”. I’m proud of what you guys are doing with Esther and don’t let anyone change your mind! Greetings and please keep in touch

  • Mila Lova says:

    Beautiful Story, I am a animal lover and a vegan as well. Thank you for sharing

  • SELENE SALTER says:

    I LOVE PIG’S I HAVE ABOUT 200 FIGURINES AND PICTURES AND POT HOLDERS AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU CAN THINK OF; I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED A POT BELLY PIG BUT I LIVE IN THE CITY AND YOU CAN NOT HAVE THEM HERE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE WITH ESTHER, IS JUST AMAZING I WOULD LOVE HER AS MUCH AS YOU DO IF I HAD HER TOO………

  • Patty Bowers says:

    THANK you for your beautiful hearts and loving & caring for Ester!!!!!!!!

  • That´s the way a pig´s life should be like!!! I´ve been Veggie for 29 years now, tomorrow I´ll be 43!!!

  • Bea Sprague says:

    This is wonderful. Many years ago I had a piglet that was purchased at an auction by a friend as a gift to me. I named her Piglet – I know, not original. At first the tiny thing was so afraid that she was quite aggressive. With patience she came to love being cuddled, brushed and scratched.As she grew it was apparent that she had health problems. On doing some research I discovered that debilitating arthritis is common in pigs raised for food. On doing more research I developed a diet including multiple supplements that helped keep her more active and healthy( I spent more on feeding her than I did on myself) , although the arthritis could never be completely cured. On separating from the man I was living with I had no place to keep her but continued to visit her often. She would come running to me making gentle grunting sounds of pleasure, looking forward to good treats and loving. When the Ex said he was going to sell her to a neighbor for meat I had to save her. I loaded her into the back of my hatchback car and drove her to the Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen NY. I was able to visit her there until she was adopted by a vegan family who let me continue to visit her. I got a lot of laughs out of the strange looks from people who saw her sitting in my car looking out the window! Pigs are amazing and I hope more people will get to know them as individuals and not food.

  • Carol Crunkhorn says:

    I am so pleased that Esther found Derek and Steve and vice versa – it’s a beautiful heartening story and proves that language is no barrier where love resides.

  • Rebecca R. Schedler says:

    I think this is great! I do wonder where Esther (the name of my maternal Grandma) goes to the bathroom. I have always thought pigs were adorable, especially the little pink piglets, and I know that they are only dirty and stinky because of the type of living conditions they have! I mean they can’t go up to the farm house and say Dude would you please clean up the pen and give us some clean water to splash around in. If i could i would open a sanctuary and provide places for abused animals to go.

    • dogmama10 says:

      scanning through her facebook, it seems like she goes potty outside, like a dog.

    • teater says:

      She goes to the bathroom in the backyard! She’s house trained :)

    • Olivia Beth says:

      Piggies can actually be litter box trained, believe it or not!
      I was kinda taken aback when i heard that too. Ive been thinking about getting a pet pig
      for some time now myself.

      • Motivesmakesadifference says:

        That is not the point of this story, unless, of course, you mean you intend to save a pig. And that, is a big job that is not for everyone. Please ask yourself, if you are getting a pig because you want something, or because a pig needs someone. If it is about you, it’s never a good idea. But you wants side, otherwise people will continue to pass off full sized pigs as micros, and they will eventually end up sold or seeking sanctuary with someone who doesn’t put their own wants ahead of others.

  • ramon mario Gonzalez says:

    mr Walker and Steve you rock ,you are only saying the truth,these pigs are wonderful
    animals that deserve to live in peace.God Bless you and the pigs.

  • Trudy (Sybil) Urquhart says:

    “This isn’t Esther’s fault, she didn’t ask for the life she was given. We have the chance to provide her with the life she deserves, not the one she was bred for. What kind of people would we be to deny her that?”

    You know what kind of people would deny her that. Most of the world. But you stepped up and saw clearly. It’s an amazing awakening, isn’t it?

    So welcome to what I call being ‘awake’. You are two wonderful men, and, take it for what it’s worth, I love you guys. And knowing what you now know, you will never be able to go back to sleepwalking. Thank Ester for that – I can only imagine how much she would thank you if she could.

  • Home Hunt says:

    That is the sweetest story! Tear…I want a pig! I think my pups would love it!

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