An English farmer whose piglets were saved from a barn blaze has served them up as sausages to the firefighters who rescued them.

The baby pigs and two sows were freed by firefighters from Pewsey in Wiltshire when a barn caught light in February and 60 tonnes of hay went up in smoke.

Farmer Rachel Rivers promised she would present the firefighters with sausages when the animals were slaughtered for their meat.

Six months later she did just that and the firefighters cooked the sausages on a barbecue.

Mrs Rivers told the BBC: "I'm sure vegetarians will hate this. I wanted to thank them. I promised them at the time I'd bring down some sausages for them, which they were all pleased about.

"We farm and this is what we do. You can't keep them as pets."

There was a mixed reaction on social media with Mrs Rivers and the firefighters facing criticism in certain quarters.

Some Facebook users called the story "horrible" while others said pigs were reared for bacon and sausages.

Pewsey fire station posted a review of the sausages on Facebook, a posting which has since been taken offline.

It said: "Exactly six months and one day since firefighters rescued 18 piglets from a fire, we got to sample the fruits of our labours from that February night.

"Huge thank you to Rachel Rivers for dropping them off for us to sample. Highly recommended by Pewsey fire station crew and if any one of our followers is having a bank holiday BBQ this weekend then check out these sausages, they are fantastic."

Campaigners from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said they would be sending the firefighters packs of Linda McCartney vegan sausages.

Mimi Bekhechi, director of international programmes at the charity, said: "These poor piglets were no better off for escaping the fire only to be put back into it six months later after being subjected to the horrifying experience of the abattoir.

"What if these firefighters had 'saved' a human child or a dog? Pigs feel fear and pain in just the same way as they do.

"When the emergency services rescue animals, Peta thanks them with vegan chocolates, not the animals' barbecued flesh.

"We'll be sending Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service packs of Linda McCartney vegan sausages so that they can see how easy it is to truly be heroes for pigs - by sparing them all suffering.

"Every day, more piglets are brought into the world to endure an agonising fate because of greed. We doubt the farmer can look beyond her own wallet."

Later, in a post on the Pewsey fire station Facebook page, the firemen apologised for any offence caused.

"In regard to a recent post on this page. We recognise that this has caused offence to some, we apologise for this and as such have removed the post," they said.