As far as social media influencers go, this one is a real hog.
An iconic Toronto-area pig that is changing people’s hearts and minds about eating meat has been named the animal influencer of the year.
Hosted by peta2, the organization’s youth animal rights group, Esther is the only four-legged award winner in the group, and beat out internet-famous runt Lil BUB the cat to clinch the spot.
The Libbys honour brands, celebrities, and companies that are committed to animals — and spreading a message of compassion. This year’s honourees include actress Dove Cameron, Bella Thorne and Olympic gold medallist soccer player Alex Morgan.
Esther, whose adventures are the subject of the New York Times bestselling book, “Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time,” and the children’s book, “The True Adventures of Esther the Pig,” started out small.
And I mean literally, actually very small.
The pig was taken in by Ontario realtor Steve Jenkins after their friends bought a so-called “micro piglet” on the internet. But boy oh boy, did Esther grow.
Within three short years the pig — who is actually a commercial-sized hog — ballooned to 600-pounds. Steve and his partner Derek Walter started documenting their hog-sized problems co-existing with the massive pig in a small bungalow on a Facebook page.
Realizing that their livestock live-in was just like their cat and dog, the couple quit eating meat — and vowed to teach others about the benefits of leaving animal products off their plates.
And as their pet grew, so did people’s love for Esther: She now has close to 500,000 Instagram followers and 1.4 million Facebook followers.
Quickly outgrowing their suburban bungalow, Steve and Derek successfully crowdfunded the costs to buy a farm where Esther could stretch out peacefully.
The Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing abused, neglected, and abandoned farmed animals.
The non-profit farm, which opens to the public for tours, is now home to 23 pigs, three cows, 18 birds, five goats, a horse and donkey, nine sheep, four bunnies and two cats.
And of course, Esther.