Hello possums! New Zealand school children encouraged to dress up DEAD animals in bizarre competition

[poll link at end of this post.]

PUBLISHED: 11:21 GMT, 2 August 2012 | UPDATED: 11:46 GMT, 2 August 2012

Dressed in wedding gowns and bikinis - their eyes fixed, jaws stiffened and bodies frozen in time - you might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled on to a taxidermist fancy dress convention.
However, these furry corpses formed part of a display at a school in New Zealand which held a bizarre best-dressed dead possum competition as part of a fundraising day.

Children let their imaginations run wild when they dressed the dead animals in all their finery for the contest at Uruti School on New Zealand's North Island.

Prettiest possum? Not content with dressing this one in pink and elaborate jewels, one participant obviously thought it needed one more detail - a pair of stick-on eyes

He could have been a contender: Some might say rigor mortis has helped this entrant strike a pose in the boxing ring. Meanwhile, death imitates art with this entry

Bad taste: One possum appeared to be dressed as a patient, while another showed off an elaborate hat, wig and claws that are sprayed purple

One dressed as a boxer had its torso skinned, and one might wonder whether rigor mortis could have helped the animal keep its fighting pose in the ring.

Others were fitted out in baby grows while another worked the Van Gogh look, dressed as a painter complete with smock and easel.

Another was dressed head to toe in pink and elaborate jewels. But the entrant clearly thought something was missing - so they added a pair of stick-on eyes plastered over the animal's real peepers.

The gruesome exhibition is a far cry from the traditional school fundraising efforts of jumble sales and cake baking.

The school has been criticised for encouraging children to dress up dead animals for the day, which also featured a wild pig hunt.

It has sparked horror with animal welfare groups but teachers defended the contest as 'lots of fun' which helped raise more than £4,000 for the school.

Principal Pauline Sutton told the Taranaki Daily News: 'There was an amazing crowd and it was lots of fun. Animals aren't the only species who are dressed up after they die. We do it to humans too.'

Easy rider: Sat on a child's trike, the outfit of tracksuit bottoms and a fleece jumper is finished with a hat, spectacles and a necklace

However, the event was labelled unacceptable and tasteless by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Spokeswoman, Jackie Poles-Smith told the Independent: 'Animals deserve respect, whether they're wild, domestic or pets. We encourage empathy [for] all animals, even when they're dead, and it's a shame that a school is encouraging its children to do this.'

The possum is an introduced species in New Zealand that wreaks havoc with the native wildlife. This includes threatening the kiwi bird which, along with the fern frond, is a national symbol of the country.

While brush-tailed possums are protected in their native Australia, the species is a pest in New Zealand. Hunting and killing them has become something of a national sport.

Wedding belle: This little girl looks proud as she clutches a dead possum wearing a bridal gown. The event was labelled unacceptable by the animal rights activists

Life's a beach: This entry, left, shows a possum posing in a bikini with a bottle of sun screen close at hand while, right, it is unclear precisely what kind of look this entrant was going for with a black dress, pink wig, stick-on eyes... and painted pink claws

Hanging out: Two possums were fitted out in baby grows. The school defended the creepy contest as 'good fun'

Possum pics disgust
Best-dressed possum competition labelled 'sick'


Uruti School is defending their 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 front page of Monday's Taranaki Daily News and online.
The online story received more than 100 comments with the majority saying the competition was a sad reflection on the 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."
- © Fairfax NZ News

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WildLife_Rules!: Hello possums! New Zealand school children encouraged to dress up DEAD animals in bizarre competition
Hello possums! New Zealand school children encouraged to dress up DEAD animals in bizarre competition
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