Many of us call ourselves true animal lovers.
We may own dogs and cats, and even small, furry pets like guinea pigs and hamsters, and curious ones like parrots and ferrets.
No matter their size, species, or temperament, our pets are our family members, equally deserving of all basic human needs: love, attention, and respect.
Sometimes, however, it can be hard to see past our own beloved pets, and view other animals in just the same way.
It certainly came as a surprise for Steve and Derek, owners of Esther the pig.
Before Esther came along into their lives, they loved “dogs, cats, dolphins, anything cute and furry, all the while eating pigs, cows, and chickens, because ‘that’s just the way it goes,’” Steve told Pegah Aarabi of Urbanette.
But after adopting Esther, they completely changed their minds and attitudes toward animals who needed more love.
Steve and Derek first adopted Esther from a friend when she was just six months old.
They were initially told that she would remain a mini pig, and wouldn’t grow past 70 lbs.
But a doctor soon revealed that Esther would grow into a full-sized 650-pound pig.
Though a strange position to be put in, Steve and Derek had already made up their minds to keep Esther.
After doing research about the meat industry, and about the unfortunate amount of pigs who get abandoned at shelters, they decided to change their lives entirely.
So many owners drop their pet pigs off at shelters when they have “outgrown” their lives, and have become an inconvenience.
The pig suffers as a result, and can even develop serious depression and anxiety because of the separation.
In worst-case scenarios, these unwanted pigs get sent to “become part of the food industry,” said Steve.
But the pair has kept Esther right by their side.
“She didn’t ask to get as big as she did, so how could we blame her and make her suffer for it?” he said.
If Steve and Derek had not kept Esther, she would have been given away to become a breeding sow.
She would have been kept in a metal cage barely large enough for her to stand up and lie down. The image of this alone was heartbreaking for them.
They would do everything in their power to keep Esther from being jailed in a metal prison like that.
And we are so thankful that they did.
In a short time, Esther has become an absolute Internet sensation, and somewhat of an advocate for veganism.
Thousands of people have been uplifted and warmed by Esther’s pictures on social media.
“I think it’s the fact that people can see an animal you wouldn’t expect to see in the situations we are able to show her in,” said Steve.
“She’s the size of a Smart Car but she lounges on our couch, or in her own kiddie pool.”
Those who have been touched by Esther’s beautiful smile are said to have felt “The Esther Effect.” Her charm, her vibrant personality, and her funny little smile have rubbed off everyone she meets.
“She elevated pigs from the barnyard food item most people associate them with, to a member of the family, with friends, and things she enjoys,” said Steve.
“She has a character, and a personality, and most importantly, a face.”
Since living with Esther, Steve and Derek have come to learn that pigs are incredibly complex and fascinating creatures with a strong attachment to their families.
With her gentle, playful nature, Esther has taught them a very important lesson about seeing the value in every life.
“Nobody told us we needed to change, Esther showed us,” said Steve. “That’s a very important point and that’s what we try to convey online.”
Steve and Derek have worked hard to raise over $400,000, to buy a plot of farmland and set up their animal sanctuary, called “Happily Ever Esther.”
Rebuilt upon a salvaged farm just west of Toronto, Canada, the sanctuary provides a loving forever home for abandoned, abused, and neglected farm animals.
“We’d like to think she has opened people’s eyes to the idea of changing their lifestyle,” said Steve of thousands of people turning vegan after hearing Esther’s story.
“Some people, us include, had a wall built around the word ‘vegan.’ It scared us, and we used to think it was a very harsh and judgmental movement,” said Steve.
With the help of Esther, they’re encouraging more of a conversation among different people with all kinds of lifestyles.
Like many others, the two of them have gradually realized that they would love to lead an alternative lifestyle, one that helps their health, animals, and the environment.
“It just seemed like the obvious choice, and we have a pig to thank for helping us realize it,” said Steven.
Please SHARE if Esther’s dazzling smile has brightened your day!