A New Zealand man has been filmed punching a possum in the face so hard it became airborne.
Vision shared to social media shows the man approaching a farm gate in Waimate, Canterbury, with the possum firmly perched on the post.
He can be seen walking up to the marsupial before taking his stance, winding up and unleashing a brutal blow that sent the possum spinning in the air.
It’s reported the property is overrun by possums, sparking a rather one-sided social media debate as to whether his actions resembled pest control or animal abuse.
“Thats animal Cruelty… Pest control would be if he shot it & it was killed instantly,” one man wrote.
“I’d doubt the punch to the head has killed it, so now it is possibly somewhere injured & maybe dying a slow painful death.”
“This is not pest control, this is some absolute moron with no respect for animals,” another added.
“Might be a pest but still deserves to be treated with respect,” one woman said.
However, others defended his need to protect the property.
“If it died on impact and that was the end goal then its fine as they are pests,” one woman responded.
Possums are protected in Australia but considered pests in New Zealand. They were introduced in 1837 and their numbers are considered to be out of control. A government program had aimed to eradicate the country of all possums by 2050.
A spokesperson for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said they had been made aware of the footage but dismissed any claims that it could fall under the bracket of pest control.
“The SPCA is disappointed to see such deliberate animal cruelty inflicted on a possum,” the SPCA said in a statement.
“Punching a stunned possum in the face is not pest control. This matter has been referred to our SPCA Inspectorate.”
A spokesperson for RSPCA NSW told Yahoo7 News there is “never an excuse for bludgeoning an animal”.
“Pest control in Australia has to be done humanely, and I doubt New Zealand’s laws would stray far from that,” she said.
It’s not the first time a video of someone unloading on an animal has gone viral.
In 2016 NSW man Greig Tonkins was filmed delivering a right-handed jab to the face of a kangaroo that had put his hunting dog, Max, in a brutal headlock.
The vision, which was quickly dubbed “the most Australian thing ever” drew scrutiny from the public, however Mr Tonkins’ employer, Taronga Western Plains Zoo, hopped to his defence, saying he was never at risk of losing his job.
“Mr Tonkins is an experienced zookeeper and during his six years at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has always followed Taronga’s best practice approach to animal care and welfare,” a spokesperson said at the time.