A school in rural New Zealand is copping flak after pictures were published of a possum-throwing contest taking place in the playground.
Last week, a North Island newspaper, the Manawatu Standard, ran pictures of students at Colyton School grabbing possum carcasses by the tail and lobbing them through the air to see how far they could toss them.
Since the article went to print, the newspaper has received several complaints about the contest and at least three people have contacted the SPCA, saying the practice taught kids to “disrespect dead animals”.
Local mother Kim Rodgers called for the practice to be canned.
“I think we should have respect. It’s not something we should do. It’s definitely not something we should be teaching children to do,” she told the Manawatu Standard.
“If it starts out with possums, it’s soon going to be cats when children have no respect for the dead.”
Principal of Colyton School Colin Martin told AAP the children knew where to draw the line.
“Our kids are taught by the SPCA and the Department of Conservation that these animals are pests and quite destructive … That’s how the country kids look at it,” Mr Martin said on Wednesday.
“There’s certainly a big difference between a cat and a possum, and our kids know the difference.”
The primary school ran a possum-trapping contest earlier this month, with teams of local hunters killing almost 1000 of the pests.
Most were taken to a local fur trader to raise money for the school.
But a couple were hurled as part of gala day festivities, raising money for various charities including the SPCA, Mr Martin said.
“It wasn’t something that happened as a curriculum event during school hours. It was something that happened as an aside to a fundraiser, on a Sunday, outside of school hours.
“There are probably around about five or six children who did throw possums, all of whom were supervised by their parents.”
Palmerston North SPCA centre manager Danny Auger confirmed he had received three complaints about the primary school’s possum-throwing event, including one from a vet.
The school was not breaking any laws, but that did not mean schools should be “encouraging” students to mistreat dead possums, Mr Auger told the Manawatu Standard on Wednesday.
“We have reasonably strong feelings about stuff like this and that is, while it’s technically not illegal, it’s morally wrong to throw a dead animal around.
“It’s about time that people wake up and smell 2010, and realise that these sorts of things shouldn’t be happening.
“It’s an archaic practice and it should be stopped.”
On Wednesday, Mr Martin said he had not been contacted by the SPCA.
An online poll of 2129 people, conducted by stuff.co.nz, found about 60 per cent of readers thought possum-throwing was “harmless fun for kids”.