Animal rights group PETA has condemned Cerezo Osaka for using a monkey to kick off a football match.

The Japanese club had a trained monkey, tied to a leash, pick up the ball and carry it to the referee before a J-League game.

PETA, which campaigns for completely ethical treatment of animals, has expressed its disgust at the stunt, insisting that the monkey is being used “as a living prop”.

“This stunt defies the very spirit of football – a fair game between willing participants. For the monkey, who’s being used as a living prop, it’s no game,” Elisa Allen, PETA’s UK director, told Goal.

“Usually in such cases, animals are under the threat of violence with an electric shock prod, and often, their teeth are removed. Monkeys forced to perform at events are usually taken away from their mothers shortly after birth – a heart-breaking trauma from which neither they nor their loving mothers ever fully recover – and are deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them.

“To get them to perform silly tricks, trainers break their spirits through methods involving the fear of punishment.

“PETA urges the J League to call a red card on using animals for any stunts and to retire this monkey to an accredited sanctuary where he or she can enjoy some semblance of a natural life.”

Goal has reached out to the J League for comment but is yet to receive a response.

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