Tourism officials in China have been criticised for using live butterflies pinned to a woman's dress in a promotional stunt to highlight the attractions of a local beauty spot.

Bosses at the Bao Tianman Scenic Spot, located in Nanzhao County in Henan Province, decided to stage a Butterfly Festival to highlight the area's natural beauty.

Eco-tourism has been identified in China as one of the fastest-growing economic sectors. In an attempt to drum up more visitors and business, the organisers of the first Bao Tianman Scenic Spot Butterfly Festival came up with the idea of making the highlight of the festival "A living butterfly fairy making an appearance that is sure to delight young and old."

But children burst into tears and adults stood up in disgust and left when the woman appeared with dozens of living butterflies impaled on her "fairy" dress.

Eyewitness Xiu Shih, 37, told the Sunday Express: "The butterflies seem to be still alive, and many were beating their wings obviously trying to fly away from the dress but they couldn't because they had steel pins through their bodies pinning them to the fabric.

"It was really shocking and I saw some children crying and their parents taking them away. This was supposed to be a celebration of the beauty of the butterfly and of the natural beauty of the region. The whole thing just left me speechless."

Spokesman Ning Wang: "We wanted the Festival to encourage people's love of insects and the natural world and to encourage them to protect our fellow creatures instead of catching and killing them so relentlessly."