Possum throwing 'immoral'- SPCA

BY KRISTIAN SOUTH
Last updated 12:00 22/09/2010
Opinion poll

How do you feel about the act of dead possum throwing?

Harmless fun for country kids.

Cruel and disrespectful.

Vote Result

possum
WARWICK SMITH
COURTING CONTROVERSY: A boy has a go at throwing a dead possum during the Colyton School Possum Count Gala this month.

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The SPCA plans to talk to a rural Manawatu school after receiving complaints about a possum throwing contest.

Last week, the Manawatu Standard ran pictures of the children at Colyton School participating in the contest, in which pupils grabbed possum carcasses by the tail and lobbed them through the air to see how far they could toss them.

Since running the article, the paper has received texts and letters from readers who strongly disagree with the practice, and calling for the school to ban future contests.

Three readers have complained to the SPCA after being horrified that children were being taught to "disrespect dead animals". Ashhurst mum Kim Rodgers lcomplained to the SPCA yesterday, asking for the possum pitching contest, and the entire practice, to be banned.

"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 said. "I have a 10-year-old son and I'd be horrified if he was doing something like that.

"If it starts out with possums, it's soon going to be cats when children have no respect for the dead."

She said she'd laid the complaint because "someone needs to do something to stop this".

Palmerston North SPCA centre manager Danny Auger confirmed that he had received three complaints about the school's possum throwing contest, including one from a vet. He said the school was not breaking any laws, but that did not mean schools should be "encouraging" students to mistreat dead possums.

"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."

Like Ms Rodgers, Mr Auger was worried that children were being taught to throw dead animals and questioned the judgment of teachers at the school.

"These are the people who are entrusted with educating our young people, maybe the teachers need to be educated on what's acceptable," he said.

"It's not good for the thought process of a child to think it's OK to throw around a dead animal, whether it's a pest like a possum or pet like a cat."

Mr Auger said he would be visiting Colyton School to ask them to stop holding such events.

"I will be talking with the school and seeing if we can come to some sort of agreement," he said.

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School principal Colin Martin declined to comment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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