Esther came into our lives more than 19 months ago. In that time our world has been turned upside down and spun around in the most incredible ways. Our eyes and minds have been opened. We've been thrown headfirst into a world we knew little about. We've become "accidental activists."
Let's go back to the beginning. It was a typical Friday night when I noticed a message from a friend on my Facebook wall. We hadn't spoken in years but "kept in touch" as many do via Facebook. She asked me if I was interested in a mini pig and I, being a huge animal lover jumped all over it. I said I needed to do a little research before I could agree. This research also included figuring out how my partner Derek felt about the idea as he had absolutely no idea what was going on at this point. About two hours after this initial message, I got another one saying somebody else was interested. I had already allowed myself to get somewhat excited so I panicked and took the bait. I agreed to meet her the following morning to pick up Esther without having time to do any of the "research" I had planned ... including speaking to Derek.
I spent the remainder of that day hiding at friends' houses until Derek left for work so I could sneak our new 5 lb. "mini pig" into the house. It was a pretty tense day and by the time Derek got home I was fit to be tied. The following few hours were somewhat heated but Derek was no match for Esther infectious personality. A week or so later he agreed to change her name from "Kijiji" as he had been calling her, to Esther, and away we went.
Within a week or so we had found a local vet who had plenty of experience with pigs. We set our first appointment and that's when things got really interesting. Esther's tail is cropped and little did we know that's pretty much a dead give away that you're dealing with a commercial pig. Prior to the day Esther arrived, neither of us had any experience with pigs whatsoever. We were horrified but hoped for the best and we began the adventure of training a piglet with no idea what was to come.
It proved to be some of the most trying experiences we could've imagined. Many times I sat on the floor with Esther and cried my eyes out worried we had made a huge mistake. She was getting into everything, and housetraining was a nightmare. We were absolutely lost and broken over the thought of having to admit defeat and give up. For whatever reason almost overnight everything seemed to fall into place. Her attitude calmed down, she started listening to commands like "no" and "come" and best of all, the accidents in the house stopped.
What made this even harder was all along knowing we had a commercial pig on our hands. We couldn't stop thinking about "what could've been" for Esther had we not brought her home. We imagined her brothers and sisters and what happened to them. It was horrifying and a realization that changed our lives forever.
We began watching documentaries on living a vegan lifestyle and what the pros and cons were. We also watched a few documentaries on farming and it was those that had the biggest impact. We had seen Esther's personality flourishing along with her mannerisms and the routine she had developed. She was like a little person that had every emotion we did. We could tell when she was happy, scared, mischievous or grumpy just by looking at her face. There's a level of awareness and consciousness in her that we had never experienced in an animal before. We saw all this and couldn't help but think of what was happening in farms around the world. To imagine how horrified, tormented and aware they are is enough to bring tears to my eyes. We had to become vegan. It wasn't a decision so much as what needed to be done.
The transition to being vegan was definitely a challenge at first but the more we learned about the factory farming industry, the more we were sure we had to keep going. The treatment of the animals is absolutely atrocious, we couldn't believe what we were seeing. We had no idea how much animals had been reduced to "products" with no regard whatsoever for their treatment. The idea of a "factory farm" meant nothing to us until we saw the mass scale of these places and the complete disregard for the animals. One of the worst things we saw was footage of pigs with their feet frozen to the floor of transport trailers because they were ankle deep in urine. Pigs are amazingly clean animals however they will go to the bathroom anywhere when they're scared. Those poor pigs were horrified and frozen near solid only to be beaten and jabbed with electric prods to make them break their legs free of the ice.
One of the other things that became very clear to us was the environmental impact of factory farms. The waste and gasses created by the animals and transporting them to and from factory farms are major contributors to climate change. Then when you consider the amount of beautiful countryside cleared of natural habitats for wildlife so it can be dedicated to growing corn to feed livestock, you realize there's a giant snowball of reasons to make changes. So for us it was a total no brainer.
Almost two years later we're as madly in love with our now 385ish pound "mini pig" as we ever were. She makes us laugh and smile every single day and we can't imagine life without her. We are trying to get our affairs in order so we can open a sanctuary of our own. We're not sure how soon it'll happen, but it will. Too many people just like us get completely taken advantage of and their pigs end up abandoned or worse.
Had anyone told us two years ago that in January of 2014 we'd have a pet pig with tens of thousands of followers on Facebook from around the world telling us we're "an ambassador for change" and that Esther is "gonna change the world for farmed animals," we would've thought you were crazy.
Fast forward 19 months and the messages and comments we receive are absolutely indescribable. The support and love being sent our way is overwhelming and it's all for Esther. It's all for a pig who got a chance at life, a pig who already changed our world in the most amazing ways. People have said that "she's the luckiest pig in the world" and while that may be somewhat true, we know we are really the lucky ones. She opened our eyes and our minds in ways we could never have imagined. We owe her more than she'll ever owe us.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.
On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.
France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.
The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.
"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."
Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.
By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.
The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.
"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.
While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.
"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.
Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.
Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.
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Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun
After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.
<div id="bb0a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e5aefc0fff61ab1aea2f4b03c5399864"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291765757013983238" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to… https://t.co/UWFkZFdjdi</div> — Fabiola Monty (@Fabiola Monty)<a href="https://twitter.com/LFabiolaMonty/statuses/1291765757013983238">1596815930.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Booms are made of nylon mesh filled with #sugarcane straws all hand-stitched by Mauritian volunteers, empty plastic bottles used as buoys," described Mauritian journalist Zeenat Hansrod in a tweet. </p>
How to Tackle Oil Spills<p>The method for tackling oil spills depends on several factors, including the type and amount of oil in question, location and weather conditions.</p><p>"Once the oil comes to shore, the more intensive the cleaning technique. You can risk causing further damage," said Nicky Cariglia, an independent consultant at Marittima, who specializes in marine pollution. </p><p>"If you wanted to remove all traces of oil, the techniques available become increasingly aggressive the less oil that remains. In mangroves, you would have the added risk of causing damage by trampling," Cariglia told DW. Highly sensitive mangrove ecosystems line the Mauritius east coast that is threatened by the current spill.</p><p>Because oil normally has a lower density than water, it floats on the surface of the ocean. This means that for clean-up action to be most effective, it should happen very quickly after a spill, before the oil disperses. </p>
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When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.
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A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.
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