A Taranaki school is defending its Pig Hunt fundraiser after being labelled 'sick' for holding a best-dressed possum competition.
Photos of dead possums dressed in dolls clothes sparked huge debate when they were published on the Taranaki Daily News.
The online story received more than 100 comments with the majority saying the competition was a sad reflection on Uruti School.
"Teaching kids that killing then dressing up the dead bodies of animals as a form of entertainment is one of the sickest things I've seen," one comment read.
An online poll asking whether a best-dressed possum competition was over the top received more than 400 votes.
About 57 per cent said it was inhumane, while 43 per cent said it was harmless fun.
The SPCA have also voiced their concern with the event saying it was 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."
But Uruti School principal Pauline Sutton said the event was fantastic and the school had only received positive feedback.
"There was an amazing crowd and it was lots of fun. The turn out blew us away," she said.
"Animals aren't the only species who are dressed up after they die, we do it to humans too."
Mrs Sutton said the event raised $8000, more than double what they were hoping for.
"My chairperson has received lots of phone calls from hunters and the local community all saying how great they thought the day was."
Mrs Poles-smith said she was worried about the message the competition was sending to the school's 14 children.
"Children are impressionable and this isn't teaching them to respect animals," she said.
"It leads on to relationships with people, if they respect animals it leads to humans there's a link there."
However, Mrs Sutton said Uruti was very involved in conservation and looking after animals.
"We work with DOC and the kiwi trust," she said.
"I think we are very understanding of the wild life around us."
- Taranaki Daily News