The Two Tamworth Pigs Who Escaped Death at a UK Abattoir
A True Story of Porcine Escapism, Intelligence & Ingenuity!
The Great Escape!
In January 1998, two 5-month old Tamworth rare breed boars escaped while being unloaded at a Wiltshire U.K. slaughterhouse. The agile pair went "on the run", chased by an army of abattoir workers, police and news reporters. Their dramatic escape from the abattoir - just before being slaughtered - and their wily tricks to evade capture attracted media attention and captured the hearts of the animal-loving British nation. The two resourceful, very game hogs were given the names "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sundance Pig".
The intrepid porcines squeezed under a supposedly secure fence and swam a large icy river in their bid for freedom - swine are naturally strong swimmers.
Even after they were finally discovery, six days after escaping, one of the young boars continued to evade capture for a further 36 hours in a confrontation with an army of animal handlers, RSPCA humane society officers, abattoir staff, police, dogs and a tempting female Tamworth sow. He even survived the first two of three immobilising darts before finally succumbing to capture.
The pigs were eventually recaptured on January 15th in the garden of local residents - only quarter of a mile away from the abattoir. They had been feeding regularly on kitchen vegetable waste. It seems that local residents refused to report their presence until a national newspaper had guaranteed to purchase them and send them to an animal sanctuary.
The newspaper which finally bought the good pigs did so for a high price in order to have exclusive photo rights. The last pig to be caught was taken to a local veterinary practice to recover from the immobilising drug injection. There was a struggle for possession of the pig at this point because the purchasing newspaper wanted to take him away to join his companion for a "Reunited in freedom thanks to us" photo shoot. However, the vet refused to release him saying that he should be kept under observation for 24 hours. Other reporters allegedly tried to break into the vets to photo the drugged boar and the police were called to intervene and prevent a "breach of the peace". The newspaper claimed ownership rights, but could not immediately produce a receipt in proof of this.
Fugitive Porkers Reprieved from becoming Pork Chops!
Butch and Sundance evaded capture for over a week. When eventually re-captured they were saved from death by a huge public outcry. A local butcher voiced the widespread opinion that it would be "unsporting" to kill the two swine after such a daring bid to avoid the fate which befell their "less-fleet-of-foot" companion, who had been unloaded at the same time.
A national newspaper arranged for them to be re-homed in an animal sanctuary - prompting headlines about how the intrepid swine had managed to "Save their Bacon"! The English are of course famous for their eccentricity and for their love of animals - pigs being a species considered particularly endearing. The pigs now have a guaranteed long life at an animal sanctuary. During the week they were on the run, their value soared from 40 GB pounds each, to a staggering 15,000 GBP - the sum finally paid to buy them - against intense competition from other TV and newspaper companies by a national media organisation.
Immortalised on Film!
The BBC have made a movie based on this true-life story. Six out of the eight pigs used to make the movie were female because it was thought that the sight of male pigs' genitals was not suitable material for family viewing! The two male pigs used were only ever shot from the front view! In real life Butch was female (a "gilt" i.e. virgin sow) and Sundance was male.
In true Hollywood style, the brave heroic pigs journey through the English countryside to the village of Tamworth, from which the breed gets its name, hoping to be reunited with their mother while an evil slaughterhouse manager fiendishly plots their recapture. Will they be able to avoid the traps he has set and reach Tamworth? The film reveals all!
The abbattoir from which the pigs escaped, located in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, was later "named & shamed" for low standards. UK Food Safety Minister, Jeff Rooker, reported that the abattoir had scored 61 points out of 100 in a nation-wide check on slaughterhouses - official action was taken against all slaughter plants scoring less than 65. He commented that and added, "They obviously didn't want to die in a low-scoring Action is being taken against all the plants scoring less than 65.
It has been suggested that this pair of pigs became a focus for a growing consumer guilt issue. More and more EU consumers were expressing reservations about the price paid by hogs to meet the demand for cheap meat. A philosopher referred to the "ocean of porcine misery" that this dramatic escape symbolised. Their escape came at a time when new pig welfare legislation was under consideration by both the UK parliament and the European Union.
More Livestock Escapes from UK Abattoirs!
In June 2000 an Aberdeen Angus heifer escaped from a U.K. meat plant in Warwickshire and gained the nickname "Houdini". The cow was later given sanctuary at an animal shelter - Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk. According to Animal welfare campaigner, Dr Tim O'Brien, the shelter was also home to five cattle who ran wild in a wood near Tamworth, Staffordshire, and eluded capture by trained animal trappers and Army marksmen for several weeks.
BBC Film about the "Tamworth Two" PigsAvailable now on DVD or VHS video:
Pigs are strong swimmers - Check out the film!