Sony Corp. (SNE) on Monday issued an apology for using a freshly slaughtered goat as a prop at its "God of War II" video game launch party in Athens, a publicity stunt that has outraged animal rights activists.

Sony hosted about 20 journalists at the March 1 event, which it called a theatrical dramatization with a Greek mythological theme.

The goat, provided to the production company by a local butcher, was part of the set dressing, the company said.

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The U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper on Sunday published a story on the party, where female hostesses with breasts covered with nothing but body paint fed grapes to guests, who competed to eat the most "warm entrails" — a meat soup made to look like the goat's internal organs.

The Daily Mail's story quoted the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which said it was "outrageous" that the animal's death had been used "to sell a few computer games."

• Click here to read the Daily Mail story.

In its mea culpa, Sony said: "We recognize that the use of a dead goat was in poor taste and fell below the high standards of conduct we set ourselves."

The company said it has launched an internal inquiry into the circumstances of the event and that it will put measures in place to make sure it does not happen again.

Greek mythology-inspired "God of War II" for the PlayStation 2 console was the best selling game in the United States in March. The game has a mature rating, and Sony said party attendees were all over the age of 18.

While sales of the PS2 remain robust, sales of Sony's new PlayStation 3 are lagging those of rival consoles from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Nintendo Co. Ltd.

This is not the first time that the Japanese electronics maker's video game marketing has inflamed critics.

Last year, the company pulled a Dutch billboard advertising campaign for its the white version of its PlayStation Portable handheld player. It portrayed a white woman aggressively grabbing the face of a black woman and was dubbed racist by critics.