A trailer for New Zealand's Next Top Model has been slammed as taking its cue from sick videos where small animals are crushed by women in high heels.
Protesters say the 30-second commercial, promoting reruns on a new youth-oriented television channel being launched today, tries to be "edgy" by sending a message that maiming animals is attractive.
"There is nothing fashionable about animal cruelty," said Stephanie Feldstein of website change.org, which backs the protest and hosts a petition.
The Australian advert opens with a bleating soft-toy lamb crushed by a red high-heeled shoe.
It goes on to show segments from New Zealand's Next Top Model, featuring a video clip where models stomp over cut hair - a scene some viewers have mistaken to be trampling on animal fur.
The trailer ends with the lamb being crushed again.
Ms Feldstein said the scenes followed a formula that had become a serious issue online.
"In crush videos, kittens and other small animals are crushed, trampled, impaled and tortured by women wearing high-heeled shoes to appeal to a sick sexual fetish," she said.
These videos have become such a problem that United States President Barack Obama last month signed a law specifically banning them, with penalties of up to seven years in jail.
The campaign against the Top Model advert calls for Australia's Network Ten to reconsider airing the ad and issue a public apology.
"This attempt to be 'edgy', appealing to younger viewers by showing women trampling all over animals' skins and alluding to animal crush videos is, by and large, done in less than poor taste," says its petition.
A New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority spokeswoman said the authority was yesterday "inundated" with complaints about the ad.
But because the commercial did not air in New Zealand, it fell outside its jurisdiction, she said.
Chief executive Hilary Souter said she had forwarded the complaints on to Australia's Advertising Standards Board. "It's most unfortunate. They've got very sincere concerns about animal cruelty, but they've just crossed their transtasman wires," she said.
For the ASA to investigate, the ad has to be primarily for New Zealand audiences.
A spokeswoman said neither the show nor TV3 had been involved in creating the promotion.
MediaWorks, which owns TV3, was not in the habit of commenting on other networks' promotions, she said.
Network Ten pushes its new channel as an "unrivalled destination for fun and bold programming with particular appeal to the 'distinctly youthful' market" of ages 13 to 29.
A spokeswoman yesterday said the network had not received any feedback about the ad.
"Obviously, it relates to a cuddly toy, not a real animal," the spokeswoman said.