Tag Archives: Steve Jenkins


Who could have guessed that gawking at a pig emptying her bladder would be the highlight of my recent visit to the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary? My Toronto Vegetarian Association travel companions and I had been warned that we might not even glimpse Esther, the so-called Wonder Pig who shares the Sanctuary’s comfortable house with her dads, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, and her dog buddies, Shelby and Reuben.

“Esther is unpredictable,” we were told. “Sometimes she comes outside when we have visitors. Other times, she just feels like lounging around inside the house all day.”

Esther’s story is well known, shared in documentaries and television interviews and a truly beautiful book, Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time. In 2012, when Steve succumbed to a friend’s plea to adopt a four-pound micro-piglet, he had no inkling that little Esther would gain several hundred pounds, the genetic fate she shares with millions of other pigs raised in factory farms and destined for slaughterhouses.


Long before she reached her present weight of six hundred and fifty pounds, it was too late. Steve and Derek had made a lifelong commitment to care for their huge, loving and deeply loved pig. That commitment extended far beyond Esther, to all farmed animals. In 2015, Derek and Steve left their suburban lives behind and moved into Cedar Row Farm, now home to the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

And so, on that sunniest of Sunday mornings, as the majestic pig ambled down into the garden, I joined the throng lining the fence, gazing at her. Esther paid us scant attention. She took a few careful steps forward and then, standing stock still, began to release a deluge of liquid. As the minutes passed, she turned by slow inches in a semi-circle, her rear hoofs tap-dancing up and down as she moved.

We were astounded at the seemingly inexhaustible volume of urine she was pumping out. “Esther would shame a gang of boys lined up in a pissing contest! If she weren’t housetrained, the furniture would be floating around the living room!”

“But she is housetrained,” Steve Jenkins assured us. “She goes outside whenever she needs to. She can even open the door to let herself in and out.”

Esther and watermelon

Finally, the flow trickled off, the slow motion tap-dance ended. Now Esther was focused on the mini-watermelon Steve held out for her and which she quickly dispatched, leaving only one red-fleshed rind for her best friend Shelby, who shares her love for melons. As the old dog ripped off the juicy fruit, Esther made her way back up onto the deck and into the house.

Oh no! Was that it? Won’t we get to see her again?

“Not to worry. She just wants a smoothie.” And Steve disappeared behind his pig, and soon reappeared carrying a large stainless steel container. Esther followed, nimbly picking her way down the rubber-covered deck stairs and over to the giant smoothie, which she proceeded to slurp up until there was more froth on her snout than in the dish. Then, casting a sly sideways glance at her admiring audience, she began to walk around the backyard toward her bathing pool, which consists of four swimming pools inserted one on top of the other to provide this hefty pig enough strength and stability.

Esther and smoothie

We were in for a treat! Esther tromped into her pool with all four hooves, sank heavily down onto her side, and had a lovely, watery lie-down. Another messy, splashy turnaround, and she plunked herself down on her other side. Finally, with all but her mid-back soaked and dripping, Esther laboriously heaved herself up and out of the pool, shook herself mightily, and made her way back up to the house.

Esther in her pool

Suddenly we heard a crashing sound, and Steve and Derek, who had just arrived, exchanged shocked looks and then raced into the house. They emerged a minute later, laughing. Uh, what had caused that concerning noise? Was everyone and everything still alright?

Derek chuckled and explained. Esther knows her status here, and so when she went inside and found Shelby and Reuben sleeping in her bed, she asked them to move. But Shelby, sixteen years old and hard of hearing, slept on. Reuben, too, did not stir. Esther was not pleased, and took action, ramming her bulk into a chair and slamming it onto the ground. Esther's Shelby doesn't hear well.jpg

Success! Shelby and Reuben woke up and scrambled out of Esther’s bed, freeing it for their bossy sister to flop down into.

Relationships! That was the underlying theme of our visit to the Happily Forever Esther Sanctuary, Esther’s with her canine siblings and human dads first and foremost, but not her only ones. How does Esther relate to the pigs, goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, rabbits and fowl who live nearby in barns and coops in her Sanctuary?

Mostly, Esther pays no attention to animals other than the dogs she was raised with, and the humans who did the raising. The main exception is pigs, whom she dislikes and perhaps even fears. If curious pigs come over to the fence to investigate this beautiful, familiar creature strolling around the Sanctuary, Esther runs away and has zero interest in greeting them.

Does she think she is a dog like Shelby and Reuben? Quite possibly, Steve and Derek concur. What is certain is that she loves them, and they love her.

We snap photos, ask questions, take notes. Will Esther make another appearance? Not likely. She’s fast asleep in her bed, dreaming of watermelons and smoothies and hanging out with Shelby and Reuben. And we can’t linger, our bus is waiting to return us to the big city. So sleep soundly, Esther and friends, and we’ll see you soon, because this is surely just the first of our many visits to your wonderful Sanctuary.

Esther's farm motto.jpg


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Filed under animal sanctuary, factory farming, Uncategorized

The Lucky Pigs Died First

An early morning transport run to Fearmans Pork Inc. gave 37 of its 180 porcine passengers the first and only lucky break of their short, miserable lives by killing them just outside the slaughterhouse. When the truck, driven by an unnamed 25-year-old now charged with careless driving, flipped over and smashed into the pavement, the luckiest pigs died instantly. Others took longer, their high-pitched screams piercing the air as they flailed and gasped and struggled despite broken limbs and internal injuries to free themselves from the weight of scores of other pigs crushing them.

         Overturned truck Fearmans Pork Inc. Oct. 5, 2016

Steve Jenkins, director of Happily Ever Esther Sanctuary in nearby Campbellville, Ontario, declared that “In the four years I have known Esther, [his four-year-old, 600-pound house pig, rescued as a piglet] I have never heard the noises I heard coming from those pigs today. It was sheer terror, and I will never forget it.”

Esther lives with two humans and several dogs

Esther lives with humans, dogs and cats

Some pigs fell off the downed truck and wandered, at first tentatively and then joyously as, for the first time in their lives, they felt the dew-dampened grass under their hooves and the warmth of the rising sun on their bristly backs. The grievously injured simply sank down, helpless. One mottled brownish pig, downed but still curious, raised her snout up to touch that of a pink pig who hovered beside her, nuzzling her.


Bonnie is comforted by pink pig


“Bonnie,” as Toronto Pig Save witnesses named her, also inspired a slaughterhouse worker to commit the same crime of compassion – giving a drink of water to a doomed pig – that led to the charge of criminal mischief against Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc, whose trial is ongoing.

While Bonnie lay there, dozens of emergency responders worked to remove the pigs still imprisoned in the truck. Though the police reported that the process was performed “safely and humanely,” Animal Justice lawyers argue that videos of the tortuous process suggest otherwise. The bloodied and traumatized pigs were prodded with long paddles to step over and around downed and dead pigs and down a short ramp to the ground, and even those with visible injuries including rectal prolapses were swatted along into Fearmans  slaughterhouse. A very few, revelling in the miracle of grass and sunshine, trotted innocently toward impending slaughter.

During the hours-long extraction from the truck and the death march that followed, downed pigs suffered unattended under the hot sun though animal advocates     repeatedly urged that they be given veterinary care.

More egregiously, Fearmans rejected Steve Jenkins’ offers of sanctuary for Bonnie and other pigs deemed no longer “viable for processing.” Instead, slaughterhouse staff improvised cardboard barriers around the injured animals to thwart witnesses. One worker, accused of being heartless, exclaimed merrily, “That’s me! I don’t know how I can live with myself!” as she draped cardboard over a fence.

Nudging pigs to slaughter

But the cardboard sagged and swayed, and protesting witnesses watched a man shoot a weapon later identified as a captive bolt gun into Bonnie’s head. He had more difficulty with another pig whose limbs jerked convulsively and who appeared to be suffering. Three other grounded pigs were shot and then shoveled into the bucket of a forklift and carted away for disposal at Fearmans.

Earlier, another drama had unfolded. Anita Krajnc had crossed a yellow police tape to investigate what was happening behind the cardboard but was ordered away. Desperate to observe how the pigs were being treated, she crossed the tape again. The police swung into action, cuffing her hands behind her back, nudging her into a police cruiser and charging her with obstructing police and breaching her bail conditions. Afterward, they released her and Krajnc resumed her mission of witnessing.

The suffering pigs died on October 5th, just a handful of the 10,000 Fearmans slaughters daily. But they left a legacy of more than pork loins and bacon. Animal Justice lawyer Anna Pippus has announced that her organization is calling for criminal animal cruelty charges to be filed against Fearmans. Citing  Sections 445 (1) and 446(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting causing unnecessary suffering to animals, and injury to animals through wilful neglect while they are being driven, Pippus argues that the pigs should have had veterinary treatment and, if needed, prompt euthanasia.

Pippus adds: “Twice now, police have laid criminal charges against the wrong person. Once again, animals lay suffering and dying without any medical attention, while police arrested the woman who came to their aid rather than those who caused the animals to suffer in the first place. Abusing and neglecting vulnerable animals is both morally wrong and a criminal offence. The only logical course of action is for police to drop the charges against Dr. Krajnc and to instead charge Fearmans Pork for animal cruelty.”

Spurred into action by the public outcry, the Ontario SPCA has now announced an investigation into how the pigs were handled after the truck accident. And, so that they will never be forgotten, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has proposed erecting a five foot high memorial tombstone at the crash scene, commemorating all the pigs killed at Fearmans. This time, witnessing and recording and photographing and videotaping has not been in vain.


Filed under Anita Krajnc, factory farming, Fearman's Pork Inc., slaughterhouse