A Taranaki school which held a best dressed dead possum competition at its annual pig hunt fundraiser is defending the event which has been labelled "sick".
Photos from the Uruti School competition held on Tuesday, which show a skinned possum dressed as a boxer, some in baby clothes and two relaxing on mini beach towels, were published on the Taranaki Daily News website and drew more than 120 comments.
Another photo shows a young girl holding a dead possum dressed up as a bride.
Pauline Sutton, principal of Uruti School which is about 40km north of New Plymouth, has defended the event and says feedback has all been positive.
"When people die, don't we dress them up?" she told NZ Newswire.
It is the first time the school has held a dress-up possum competition and Ms Sutton says it may not be the last.
However, SPCA spokeswoman Jackie Poles-Smith says the competition is disappointing.
"The SPCA's focus is on teaching children respect and empathy for animals and they didn't do that," spokeswoman Jackie Poles-Smith said.
"Animals deserve respect even after death."
About 60 per cent of the online comments labelled the event inhumane with the rest saying it was just a bit of fun.
"Absolute sickos," wrote Michelle.
"How absolutely disgusting," commented a person calling themselves Disgusted.
Maggie asked if those involved were "savages".
Others pointed out the positive effects such events might have on the environment by killing off pests.
"Judging by all the pigs lined up, these people have done the community and the environment a major favour by hunting a dangerous and destructive pest," Emma said.
A local woman calling herself Mama from the "Hicks" reminded readers to remember where their food came from, saying: "...in the scheme of things a few dead pigs and possums dressed up isn't the end of the world people".