Vigilante animal rights activists have released thousands of birds from a farm in North Devon.

An anonymous email to Bite Back magazine and seen by the Gazette, laid claim to releasing birds from Southern Partridges Ltd in Yarnscombe on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front.

The group claimed it had released up to 16,000 partridges, calling it the 'biggest release in the history of British animal liberation'.

Police confirmed the incident took place on the night of Saturday, April 14, but said 3,000 pheasants had been lost as a result of laying pens being tampered with.

The anonymous claim said: "The purpose of having this factory farm set up is so that many thousands of eggs are hatched on site every week and are then sold on to shoots to just be used as live targets. Well, not any more.

"We worked hard and in less than two hours we'd opened as many as we could, the air was thick with birds, partridges flew around us constantly.

"It was a truly uplifting experience knowing our evening's work was saving all these individual lives from a hellish daily experience, not only that, but also none of their offspring would be taken and sold on to gamekeepers.

"That night we dealt a huge blow to the partridge shooting industry in the UK and those involved in this disgusting activity would be foolish not to expect more from us."

Southern Partridge Ltd's website says all birds at the farm are reared to the Game Farmer's Association Code of Rearing Practice.

A spokesman from Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Police have been made aware of laying pens at a farm in Yarnscombe having been tampered with, leading to the release and loss of in the region of 3,000 pheasants.

"It is believed that this took place overnight on Saturday 14 April into Sunday 15 April."

Police are asking anyone with any information about the incident to contact them at 101@dc.police.uk quoting crime reference CR/031844/18.

Information can also be passed on anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.