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Possum-Throwing Contest At NZ School Sparks Outrage

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A New Zealand school has found itself at the center of a heated animal rights debate after some of its students participated in a possum-tossing contest, the BBC reports.

Pictures of Colyton School pupils grabbing possum carcasses by the tail and tossing them into the air were published last week by The Manawatu Standard. Considered pests in New Zealand, the four-legged, squirrel-like marsupials had already been shot dead by hunters by the time the students used them in games at an extracurricular fundraising event on Sept. 12.

Still, the practice has been slammed as "morally wrong" by local animal activists. "It's about time that people wake up and smell 2010 and realize these sorts of things shouldn't be happening," Danny Auger, manager of the New Zealand Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, said, according to AFP. "It's an archaic practice and should be stopped."

School principal Colin Martin lept to his students' defense in a statement released to The Sydney Morning Herald . "The few children who did take part in possum throwing were there with family and well supervised," he wrote, noting that the game was just one of several featured at the fundraising event. "They learnt that shooting is a far better death for a possum than traps or poison. This type of contextual learning is far more valuable than reading this stuff from books ... A large number of our rural kids are involved in hunting and farming practices and have a really good understanding about life and death."