An Australia pizzeria is under fire on social media over a controversial display in which a stuffed cow has been suspended from the restaurant's ceiling.

The installation at Etica, in Adelaide, South Australia, which the owners say is aimed at educating consumers on the origins of their food, has caused outrage online after a taxidermed Friesian-Hereford cow was suspended from the ceiling by her hind legs.

A post on their Facebook page read: “We appreciate all the attention our new project is receiving.

“Our aim is to create thoughtful conversation.

“Our newly opened purpose-built Halifax Street venue depicts an abattoir with glass walls. It features a taxidermied Friesian-Hereford hanging from the ceiling by her hind legs.

“The purpose is to make consumers stop and think about the realities of the dairy industry. The project highlights information that is not readily available to consumers. More broadly, it is a challenge to the way in which our society tends to obscure from the origins of food.”

The post added that the pose of Schvitzy, “as she was affectionately known”, is designed to be “purposely confronting”, and that she had “not been hung for decoration”.

Owner Federico Pisanelli and his wife Melissa, say they stand by their decision to have the piece installed.

Mr Pisanelli told Australian news site The Source SA that “many of the Facebook comments seem misinformed about why the cow is there”, and that the backlash about the project online didn’t represent the overall feedback they’d received.

Critics online have been quick to condemn the “atrocious and shocking” display with several posters labeling it a publicity stunt.

One user wrote: “Your ethics are pretty screwed up if you think taking a animal that was abused its whole life, and rather than doing the only actual ethical thing, which would have been to save her life.

“No instead like the typical hypocrites you are you murdered her and now use her to get attention for your sh***y restaurant.”

While another posted: “Why is there a dead cow hanging from the rafters?

“How cruel, horrific and just plain evil to see such a gentle creature depicted in this way. Shame on you!”

One person was so incensed that they even launched a petition to force the owners to take the cow down, describing the restaurant as “a space for people to get more comfortable with the death and torture of other species”.

At the time of writing nearly 6,000 had signed.

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