Firefighters eat sausages made of piglets they saved from blaze

Farmer sends gift of sausages to thank Wiltshire firefighters who rescued piglets and two sows from fire in barn

A piglet. The farmer sent the sausages six months after the fire. Photograph: Alamy

A farmer whose piglets were saved from a barn fire has served the animals up as sausages to thank the firefighters who rescued them.

The baby pigs and two sows were freed by firefighters from Pewsey in Wiltshire when a barn went up in flames in February.

The farmer, Rachel Rivers, promised she would present the firefighters with organic sausages when the animals were slaughtered for their meat. Six months later she did just that and the firefighters cooked the bangers on a barbecue.

However, the farmer and firefighters have faced criticism from some who have found the arrangement a little queasy.

Rivers, who farms near Pewsey, accepted that some vegetarians and animal rights campaigners would not be happy. But she said: “This was just a token gesture to the fire service. They were over the moon with them.

“This is just what we do – we are not an animal sanctuary. We give the pigs the best opportunity and the best life they could have for six months.

“They won’t be kept inside; they are outdoors and fed with organic food which is grown on the farm.”

The piglets were just two weeks old when firefighters saved their bacon and they were turned into sausages after being fattened up. Rivers said: “At the time I told [the firefighters] I would give them the sausages.”

After the fire, the Pewsey watch manager Mark Hillier said: “When we arrived at the scene shortly before 10pm, half of the barn was on fire, with the pigs sheltering in the corner on the other side.

“The tough bit was getting towards it and then to free the pigs. Once they were clear, we took a defensive approach to keep the situation under control and then let the fire burn itself out.”

Some social media users expressed distaste at the farmer’s gesture. Farrell Monaco wrote: “What a dreadful story. Lovely that they saved the pigs but why publish their demise? Grim.”

Pearl-Lucia Sayer wrote: “Could she not just say thanks! What’s wrong with a box of Roses?”

Still, the Pewsey fire station posted a glowing review of the sausages, saying: “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.”

The fire station later removed the story of the sausages from its Facebook page and apologised for any offence caused. It said: “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.”

The animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said it would be sending the firefighters packs of Linda McCartney vegan sausages.

Mimi Bekhechi, Peta’s director of international programmes, 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.

“We’ll be sending Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue service packs of Linda McCartney vegan sausages so they can see how easy it is to truly be heroes for pigs – by sparing them all suffering.”