A video of a man punching a possum in the face has been condemned by animal rights groups as an act of "deliberate cruelty" - not pest control.
In a short clip posted to Facebook on Monday by Newstalk ZB radio show The Country, a young man can be seen approaching a possum sitting on a fence post on a farm in Waimate.
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He then punches the animal in the face, causing it to go flying through the air.
The video divided viewers, some of whom said the man's actions were justified because possums are considered pests in New Zealand. They are known to eat kea, kōkako chicks, weta and native snails, and can disrupt the nesting habits of native birds like kākāriki and saddlebacks, according to the Department of Conservation (DoC).
However, animal rights groups say there's still no excuse for animal abuse.
A spokesperson for Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) says while controlling introduced species that threaten native wildlife is important, the focus needs to be on long-term solutions such as fertility control.
"Punching an animal in the face is appalling. It's animal cruelty - pure and simple - and there is no excuse for it," they said.
"This brutal behaviour has nothing to do with animal management. What we are seeing in this video is someone abusing animals."
SAFE says the man in the video was clearly "showing off" in front of his friends who were filming.
"Their laughing response in the video illustrates the toxic attitude towards some animals that is sadly commonplace in New Zealand."
The video is evidence of a double-standard which says some animals matter less than others, SAFE says.
"If it was a dog or cat being punched violently in the face, there would be no discussion about this, other than that the perpetrator needs to be prosecuted for animal abuse."
Also quick to condemn the man's actions was the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
"The SPCA is disappointed to see such deliberate animal cruelty inflicted on a possum," a spokesperson told Newshub.
"Punching a stunned possum in the face is not pest control."
The incident has been referred to the SPCA Inspectorate, a group with the power to prosecute people who deliberately harm animals.