For years and years I had quite the passionate, fiery, obsessive love affair with — meat.
And as the granddaughter of a Swedish butcher and the daughter of a meat-cookin’ mama that love went DNA deep.
We never talked about eating meat as a choice because it was understood that a proper meal always included a hunk of it on your plate. Period. The end. Once Grandpa Art retired (his bloody aprons put away) and modern supermarkets popped up all over the suburbs, the meat we bought was wrapped in plastic on white Styrofoam and disconnected from any notion that it was once part of a living, breathing creature. And I liked it that way.
I always suspected that my meat loving ways were on shaky ground. I had never been a “meat on the bone” kind of girl and preferred to stay as far away from clucking, oinking, and mooing as possible. I even tried a vegan cleanse created by the most awesome and brilliant Kathy Freston, author of The Book of Veganish. Kathy is an advocate for plant-based eating and often brought her wellness expertise to the Oprah show. I felt better not eating meat, as Kathy suggested but before long I was back to good ole Chicago Italian beef sandwiches au jus smothered in mozzarella and peppers.
But a date with destiny loomed on the horizon.
The perfect storm that up-ended years of meat eating happened smack dab in the middle of my Facebook feed. As I scrolled down to check out what my family and friends were up to in their lives, I started noticing the most adorable animal videos. In short order, I was hooked on my them. They were funny and sweet and literally became my “good mood food”. Puppies, goats, cows, elephants, tigers, giraffes, and more puppies. I would laugh at their antics, gasp at their unlikely friendships and boohoo over their harrowing rescues. People would send me the best of the best to delight me, move me or just crack me up. I became known as the someone in the story “I know someone who loves animal videos”. It was perfectly harmless after all I was just giving myself little mini doses of joy throughout my week.
Then I laid eyes on Esther. The story of Esther the Wonder Pig was not only riveting, she was a marvel with a personality as big as her 600 pound body. Originally, her Dads, Steve and Derek, thought they were getting a little micro pig. But turns out they were hoodwinked into adopting what was really a full sized commercial pig. Crazy, right? Well, they had already fallen hard for Esther and there was no choice but to reroute their lives to care for her. Esther lived in the house just like their dogs did sleeping on couches, begging for treats and hanging out like any beloved pet.
I was gobsmacked by Steven and Derek’s unwavering commitment to their pig daughter, their pluck at saying yes to a very, very sobering turn of events but that alone would not have changed my life forever.
It was a series of photos and videos that got to me on a cellular level. Photos that
were different from the scary hidden-camera factory farm cruelty videos that I needed to see as a responsible consumer but couldn’t bear to take in as a human being and lover of animals.
These photos and videos of Esther, a pig normally raised for food, were every bit as special as the photos and videos of my own beloved English bulldogs, Bella and Kissy, who I would no more eat than a newborn baby.
The images were just ordinary moments.
Esther’s grandma feeding her a snack in the kitchen.
Esther opening the fridge door with her snout to get herself another little snack.
And the piece de resistance?
Esther opening the screen door with her nose to have a “good girl” potty outside.
Those 3 things got under my skin in a way that brought me to my metaphoric knees.
It was an internal lightning strike.
A thunder bolt of consciousness.
Esther was the morning bacon I had eaten for years.
Esther was the Sunday ham I was raised on Easter after Easter.
Esther (who by the way loves to wear a variety of fashionable house-coats) grabbed me right in the only place where real change is made.
And with that, it was over.
It was a quantum upheaval that continues three years later
and fundamentally looks like this:
If you can kiss me on the cheek I can no longer eat you—thanks
to Esther the Wonder Pig.
My lean-in toward mostly plant based eating continues to expand to what I predict will one
day be an entirely plant based existence.
Good for me.
Good for my fellow sentient beings.
Good for the planet that is our shared home.
All of this only possible because of a big, beautiful and very silly Canadian pig who became one of my great spiritual teachers when she lit up a path to consciousness.
Meet my Facebook friend Esther at www.facebook.com/estherthewonderpig/