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When Pigs Escape: A Moving Documentary

Updated: Feb 11, 2023


Matilda nurses her piglets. Photo: Jusep Moreno.

In June 2021, a pregnant pig named Matilda escaped from a farm and took refuge at the edge of a forest in Nottinghamshire. Shortly after, she gave birth to ten piglets. The independent documentary When Pigs Escape chronicles Matilda's story and the campaign to save her family.


The documentary opens by recounting Matilda's first days of freedom, the support she received from animal advocates, and the pressure campaign directed at the farm after they captured her family. Because Matilda and her children were considered property of the farmer, animal advocates had to mobilize quickly on their behalf. With a grassroots campaign and an outpouring of community support, they secured the pigs' release to Brinsley Animal Sanctuary, where the family lived temporarily before moving to Surge Sanctuary.


Matilda's story is told by vegan filmmaker Jusep Moreno, who happened to be a volunteer at Brinsley Animal Sanctuary. Moreno wanted to acknowledge Matilda's resistance and amplify her story through a documentary that encourages viewers to get to know the pigs on the pigs' own terms. The result is a compelling portrait of sanctuary life and animal agency.

The film follows the lives of Matilda and her family after their rescue. Eye-level shots of the pigs draw the viewer into their world. There are uplifting scenes of them rambling through the fields, swimming in a small pool, chasing each other, and sleeping and nursing together. From the piglets foraging outdoors for the first time to Matilda having a painful ring removed from her snout, many poignant moments provide insight into their experiences.


With minimal interpretive narration, the film elevates sounds of nature and animals. This approach allows the audience to listen to the voices of the pigs and contemplate their message. We are moved to appreciate the invaluable role of sanctuaries as spaces where animals can flourish while navigating both joy and tragedy, and to consider why Matilda had to escape in the first place.


Told with compassion and respect, When Pigs Escape is a must-watch. Moreno's moving portrait of this loving family will inspire viewers to reflect on their relationship with other animals and to advocate for all those who are unable to break free. It will also be of interest to those planning pressure campaigns in solidarity with the oppressed. The film is available to stream worldwide for free at WaterBear.

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