There’s a post in my brain that is struggling to get out. I want to share some of my thoughts about animal welfare, the tourism industry, how those two things combine, and some kinder, gentler alternatives.
While I shillie-shallied over what to say, my friend, Lesley Williamson, told me about a recent experience visiting an animal sanctuary in Ontario. She was kind enough to share her story and some great pictures from her day at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. I’ll bet you had no idea you’d be reading about Esther the Wonder Pig today, did you? You’re so lucky!
Here’s Lesley’s story:
I don’t recall how I first found Esther the Wonder Pig on Facebook. As soon as I learned that she is a full-size commercial pig living in someone’s house, with her own mattress no less, I was hooked. Esther, “voiced” in photos and videos by her dads, Steve and Derek, is fascinating, charming, and hysterically funny. I’d been eating less and less meat over time, but post-Esther, I pretty much just stopped. Couldn’t do it.
About a month back, surfing Esther’s farm sanctuary web site, I saw that the sanctuary holds volunteer work days, and I signed up for the first day I was free. So last Saturday I was off, with my “Esther Approved” vegan lunch, and boxes of cantaloupe and apples for the animals. I arrived, typically 40 minutes early, and had to lurk at the gate. I was entertained by watching the sanctuary cats, Delores, Amy, Finn, and Catt Damon stalking through the undergrowth.
About 17 volunteers showed up that day, most from within an hour’s drive, but several who had driven up from New Hampshire. Steve and Derek, who are exactly as delightful as you’d expect from their Facebook appearances, told us that Esther has fans all over the world and they’ve had volunteers visit from several countries.
The farm, near the pretty town of Campbellville, Ontario, includes a big old barn, a cute little century house with a pattern of piggy-nose-marks on the sliding doors, and Esther’s paddling pool in the yard. The sanctuary office, housed in a large trailer, includes the Esther Store, painted pink to match the heated (!) porta potty.
After a welcome speech by Derek, and much patting of senior dogs Shelby and Reuben, we were given our work assignments and got busy.
Esther emerged (coaxed by Steve, I suspect: she is not a morning pig) at about 10:30 a.m. to the clicking of cameras and cries of joy. I’m not kidding; it was as if George Clooney had arrived. She observed her admirers with moderate interest, then demolished a cantaloupe.
She had a walk around the yard, inspecting the newly-dug post holes. Steve then sprayed her with sunscreen – pale pigs can burn! – and she settled herself in the lee of the lunch tent for a nap while we all went back to work.
Come lunch time she moved majestically among the tables, sniffing for her favourites. There was some risk, apparently, of her climbing onto a bench to retrieve my hummus, so I surrendered it to Steve. He fed it to her on slices of cucumber, which she accepted daintily. After lunch she retired to bed for the afternoon. Pigs sleep a LOT.
The day ended with a visit to the other sanctuary animals: a peacock, rabbits, chickens, goats, sheep, cattle, a horse and donkey (buddies, taken in together), and many more pigs.
It’s pretty clear that taking care of the menagerie takes a crazy amount of work, and that’s on top of all of the upgrading and cleaning the property requires. Thinking about how the guys have completely altered their lives, and taken on this enormous task, for the benefit of these animals, was very humbling.
On a selfish note, there was something very satisfying about working alongside a bunch of like-minded people. I’m not surprised folks come from all over to help out and meet Esther. I’ll be volunteering, and donating to the sanctuary again, guaranteed!
I leave you with this feel good belly rub picture and the promise of sharing the original post I talked about, just as soon as I can make sense of my thoughts and come up with something worth sharing.
Thanks, Lesley. You saved my bacon!
(Of course, I’m talking about my homemade vegan “facon”)