TORONTO — Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg took a break from her high-profile campaign against climate change this week to hang out with a fellow famous vegan and Earth lover in Ontario.
Only instead of handshakes, the meeting between the two influential figures involved a forehead pet and snout rub.
On Tuesday afternoon the 16-year-old and her father stopped by the Campbellville, Ont., animal sanctuary of Esther the Wonder Pig, a social media sensation with two books written about her and an upcoming feature film deal.
The gathering was kept secret until Wednesday, when a photo of them was posted on Esther’s social media pages with the caption: “We were gonna change the world together, but she took my last cupcake so the future of our alliance is uncertain. #HowDareYou”
Esther’s co-“dad” Steve Jenkins says Thunberg has been a follower and supporter of Esther’s for quite a while and recently asked to visit their property during her trip to Canada. Last week, Thunberg spoke about the dire state of the planet at a climate-change protest in Montreal, timed with similar marches across the country.
She was in Campbellville for several hours, met a bunch of their animals, fed Esther a cupcake and was able to just “relax and be a kid,” said Jenkins, who co-“parents” Esther and runs the sanctuary with Derek Walter.
“Poor Greta and her father, they’ve absolutely been run ragged the last little while, as everybody knows,” said Jenkins, referring to the barrage of online criticism Thunberg has faced as she delivers her impassioned message on global stages.
“I think the reason that she follows Esther, and hopefully the reason that she came here, was just to get a little bit of a break. She didn’t have a whole bunch of people in her face and she was able to relax and smile and be 16.”
Jenkins said he and Walter chatted with Thunberg and found her to be “100 per cent on top of” her life.
“She’s making her schedule, she decides where they go, when they go home, if they go home,” Jenkins said.
“It’s incredible. She’s easily the most inspiring and driven person I’ve ever met, and the fact that she’s 16 just blows my mind.”
They also chatted about possible collaborations in the future.
“We definitely are keeping in touch,” Jenkins said, noting they all share a love of veganism — even Esther eats a vegan diet — and environmental advocacy.
“I wouldn’t say that there’s anything official on the books at the moment. But it’s not out of the question, for sure. We just want to continue to be a little break for her, is kind of our main objective, is to keep in touch and remind her smile and be 16.”
Jenkins and Walter have written about their “pig-daughter” experiences in “Happily Ever Esther” and “Esther the Wonder Pig,” and have signed a deal with Hollywood producers The Donners’ Company to adapt the books for a feature film.
Esther, who is about seven years old, has faced some health battles in the past but is “doing fantastic” these days, said Jenkins.
She was declared cancer-free last September, although she did recently have a bone infection that wouldn’t go away and resulted in a toe amputation in August.
“But it seems like we’ve finally, knock on wood, got it all under control and sorted and we’re hoping to get the all clear on that tomorrow,” Jenkins said.
“She’s active and eating well and drinking well. She lost some weight, which is something we’ve been working on for a little while, just as she gets a little older trying to manage her arthritis and that sort of stuff. So aside from the little toe hiccup this year, Esther really is doing fantastically well.”