Hermann Nitsch
A scene from Hermann Nitsch's artwork in 1998 Cibulka/Hermann Nitsch

A petition has been launched by an animal activist group calling for Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art's Dark Mofo festival to cancel a performance featuring an animal carcass as its centrepiece.

The petition, launched by Animal Liberation Tasmania, urges people to help cancel the three-hour 150.Action show, directed by 78-year-old Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch.

The performance art piece has been described as "a bloody, sacrificial ritual performed by the patriarch of Viennese Actionism, his devoted disciples and an orchestra" and is scheduled to take place in June 2017. It comes as part of the Dark Mofo festival and will be produced by Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Despite earlier concerns that a bull would be killed as part of the performance, festival director Leigh Carmichael told ABC media on 19 April that there would not be a live slaughter.

Without alleviating the animal rights organisation's concerns, he claimed that the animal would be slaughtered "humanely" before the show commenced.

He said that the controversial show will involve "meat, fish, fruit and blood, live performers and an orchestra" while entry will be restricted to people over 18 years of age. This is due to "the difficult nature and themes of the work."

"Firstly, and most importantly, there will not be a live animal slaughtered as part of any Dark Mofo performance." The dead bull, which will be the centrepiece, will be slaughtered at a local abattoir and taken to the site.

Hermann Nitsch
A scene of performance artwork by Hermann Nitsch Georg Soulek/Hermann Nitsch

Though pagan overtones have been key to the two-week long festival since it began in 2013, the 500 litres of blood required for Nitsch's performance are a new extreme.

On the change.org website, the petition from Animal Liberation Tasmania reads: "We are opposed to this event, which trivialises the slaughter of animals for human usage, and condemns a sentient being to death in the pursuit of artistic endeavours.

"We request that the Hobart City Council intervene in this matter. Should this event be permitted to occur, it will reflect badly on the core values and image this city strives to uphold," it adds.

But the RSPCA Tasmania's general manager Peter West said that the RSPCA did not object to an animal that was bred for slaughter being killed humanely.

Hermann Nitsch
A scene from Hermann Nitsch's artwork in 2013 David Baltzer/Hermann Nitsch

He told Guardian Australia: "I think the difficulty we have is the respect shown to the animal with this action, that's the challenge that we have with this particular artwork.

"It's clearly not respectful to the beast and even though it has been humanely and respectfully dispatched, what happens after that is anything but respectful."

Creative director Carmichael also said the event will be "intense" in his interview with ABC media, adding: "It will be intense... I am sure it will be confronting, but I think it is something that will need to be experienced.

"We do deal with strong themes and tough issues and controversial issues from time to time and I guess this is one of those and I am not entirely surprised by the reaction."

He also claimed that the meat will be eaten following the show. He said: "It is the artist's intention that the meat be eaten after the event, and we are working through addressing the health and safety regulations to achieve this outcome."