Bad boy Dancing With The Stars judge Brendan Cole has caused international outrage by stoning a chicken to death on a TVNZ reality show.

The Herald on Sunday has learned that he once worked as an animal protection volunteer, saving oil-covered ducks after a spill in Christchurch.

Now, animal rights groups in New Zealand and the UK are furious.

SPCA executive director Peter Mason said the stunt had made him cringe, and he suspected the incident would have contravened the Animal Welfare Act if it had been filmed on New Zealand soil.

He said the way the chicken was killed set a bad example to viewers.

Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) campaign director Hans Kriek said Cole's decision to participate in such an act was "weird" and "disappointing", considering the 33-year-old ballroom dancer once volunteered with SAFE in Christchurch.

The TV One episode of Intrepid Journey aired last week in New Zealand, but was not brought to the attention of UK media till this week. Cole was filmed on location in Vanuatu, smiling as he killed the chicken in a hunting lesson.

He initially used a catapult to stone the chicken from 2m away but missed, so he chased the bird through the bush. He eventually cornered the chicken against the walls of a hut.

Cole wrung its neck and beat it with a stick before asking, "is it dead yet?" as it hang limply in his hands.

He then ate the chicken, saying: "Sensational. Best chicken I've ever had."

Cole later dubbed his actions "Chickengate" and said he would have to live with any consequences.

Britain's Daily Mail said Cole was "cole-blooded" and "not just a ladykiller", while the Daily Mirror headlined its story, "Foxtrotter kills cha-cha-chicken".

At British animal rights charity Viva, campaigns manager Justin Kerswell told the tabloid: "This appears to be an outrageous display of cruelty by someone in the public eye who should know better. I am disgusted."

Back in New Zealand, Hans Kriek said airing the footage of the killing was unnecessary and set a bad example for people who watched the programme.

He said Cole was a "good person" who had volunteered his help for SAFE in the past, and he must have been egged on by the presence of TV cameras to kill the chicken in such a manner.

"Things like this tend to happen on these sorts of shows, where people would do things that they would never normally do," he said.

"Everyone plays up in front of the camera but I'll bet he'll look back and regret what he did."

As well as judging TVNZ's Dancing With The Stars, Cole is famous in Britain for his role as a dancer on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing series.

He has had a string of relationships, including Strictly Come Dancing dance partner Camilla Dallerup. He is now engaged to British model Zoe Hobbs.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NZPA