A little over a week ago, I saw a few posts of a video of a pig go by on my news feed. I didn’t watch the video at the time for some reason. Then a friend sent me a video of a gentleman talking about Esther the Wonder Pig. It clicked: that must be the pig in the video that had been on my news feed.
I watched the video of Steve Jenkins talking about Esther. I was deeply touched and intrigued by their story. Steve and his family thought they were adopting a trendy “micropig,” but Esther in fact turned out to be a standard-sized domestic pig. I went over to Esther’s Facebook page to see more. Within a few minutes, I was in love with Esther, as are 15,710 followers (at this writing), in less than one month!
Esther, Derek, and Steve now have a new mission of educating the public not only about pigs like Esther, but other farmed animals as well. Below, Steve offers more background and perspective on Esther the Wonder Pig and our relationship to animals.
We started to have suspicions about Esther’s size at about six months. By then we had already fallen madly in love with her, so getting rid of her wasn’t really an option in our minds. There were plenty of times I would sit with Esther and cry because I was so worried we wouldn’t have a choice but to get rid of her. Neighbors could complain, she could get too big to do stairs, her attitude could change and let’s be honest, size could be an issue and at some point. Once we got to know her there was just something really hard to explain. She’s family in every sense of the word and she’s wasn’t going anywhere no matter what. We’d move before we’d give her up.
We had no idea what we were in for. Neither myself nor my partner Derek had any experience with pigs. In fact, Derek didn’t even know we were getting one. Surprise!! Hahahaha. We learned really quickly that they are unbelievably smart. Esther loves to be cuddled and scratched, even now as you’ll see on our Facebook and YouTube videos. She’s very affectionate, she has been completely house trained, does a few tricks for her treats. The list is endless. She has a personality like no animal we’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
When we look at pigs now, all we see is Esther and our dogs. That’s why we felt the need to share our story. Pigs are the most incredible, sensitive, and loving animals you’ll ever meet when given the right environment. I’m not saying you should jump into a pen at a factory farm. Those pigs are terrified and fully aware of what’s happening. When you take them away from that, and show them affection, they give it back tenfold. I could go on forever, you need to look into her eyes to understand, they’re almost human.
We are working very hard at becoming vegan. I have recently been able to eliminate dairy, which was that last dietary hurdle. Derek was much quicker, but I struggled. Cereal was a food group for me. We do however still have a leather couch, leather car seats, etc. These are things we just couldn’t afford to throw away, but will certainly be replaced with appropriate materials as soon as we can afford to do so. It’s definitely not for lack of wanting them gone. We are very aware of what we buy now and make every effort to be consistent. It’s a learning curve for sure but it’s not something we feel we had to “decide.” In both of our minds it’s just the right thing to do. After Esther arrived, our eyes were opened really quickly. We couldn’t sleep at night knowing we were supporting the meat and dairy industry, and the hell animals just like Esther are subjected to. Imagine your golden retriever in that scenario, it’s sickening.
We want people to know that Esther is what you’re eating. The personality you see. Her smile, her intelligence, her playfulness and her want for affection are no different then the millions of pigs we allow to be treated like a product in factory farms. We want to put a face on the pork products we love so much. Given the chance, every one of those pigs would be just like Esther.
We also want people who are thinking of getting a pet pig to do as much research as possible and think again. We had no idea what we were in for with Esther. We were told 70 to 80 pounds, max! If you absolutely want a pig, please consider a rescue from a local sanctuary. Thousands of pigs are abandoned every year because their owners didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. Pigs can be too smart for their own good and require a lot of training and time in the early years. Esther seems to be really well settled, but she is still a handful. You also have to keep in mind even a smaller potbellied pig can be well over 100 pounds of muscle – if they want to go somewhere, they’re going!
Everyone has been really, really supportive. Some family members have even started working toward vegetarian and vegan diets although we’re not pushing anyone. We want them to make the connection on their own, not because it’s being jammed down their throats. Slowly but surely Esther is creeping into their minds at the grocery store and altering the shopping list.
We haven’t had very much at all. At first people thought we were advocating having a house pig like Esther. We absolutely DO NOT suggest a big pig as a pet. She works for us because we’re able to give her the time she needs, but she’s not for everyone. We also get the odd “you need meat to be healthy” and a few other food-related comments, but for the most part, our followers are really, really supportive.
A typical day actually is quite “typical.” I’m a realtor and Derek is a professional magician so both of us are able to work at home often. Esther sleeps when we sleep, naps frequently, and spends a bunch of time outside rooting in the grass and in a pen we have at the side of our house. It’s full of mulch for her to root. She’s just like the dogs now that she’s older. It was a ton of work when she was a baby, but so is a puppy. She learned quickly, pushed the boundaries, but knows the rules. “Hey” or “what are you doing” are very powerful words around here. She may act up as she gets older, we don’t know. As of today, she acts very much like our dogs, they even share beds. For us it’s typical, you’d have to come visit for a few days to see for yourself. Your opinion of typical could be vastly different. Hahahaha.
Everyone gets along pretty well. The cats just deal with it and really don’t pay much attention. The dogs are fine too. We had a couple little scraps as the ground rules were established but again, Esther learns very quickly and now they’re great. She doesn’t bother their food and everyone’s happy. They don’t really play together because she’s a little rough, I think. One of the dogs is more accepting than the other, but he’s a little guy so he just growls a little if she gets in his face, then walks away. Never any aggression from either side. They sleep together during the day and get their morning treats together in the kitchen. She’s just part of the “pack.”
It’s easier to tell you what she doesn’t like: onions and raw potatoes. She also doesn’t eat citrus, but we we’re told it’s bad for them, so we never give it to her anyway. She seems to love banana over pretty much everything. Granola bars are a very close second. She managed to sniff a few boxes of those out of the cupboard.
I think people need to get close and interact with these animals. We don’t have experience with anything but pigs, but I know if anyone spends time with Esther, you can’t help but think of her in the meat aisle, and all of a sudden it becomes a more personal decision. You’re not just buying a product anymore. Your dinner has a face. We want nothing more then to open a sanctuary to give people that chance to spend time working with the animals and getting to know them. We’re working really hard to save the money we need to make it happen as soon as possible. They’re not mindless angry and aggressive animals, they’ll blow your mind. Nobody wants to watch “those videos.” They’re too graphic and until now it didn’t really seem like there was another way for people to make the connection. We hope Esther and awareness of sanctuaries in your area can bridge that gap and give you a chance to see these animals in stress-free and safe environments. They’re everywhere, just look them up and give them a call. I’m sure any of them would be thrilled to show you around.
We live with a pig in the house!! Hahahaha. The fact that we can live with her in the house and carry on normally is insane. It just goes to show how intelligent and aware pigs are. She changed our lives in too many ways to count and had anyone told us we would be doing interviews about our house pig we would’ve thought they were crazy. Now that’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s also a surprise.