A cow on the loose in a residential street was hit and killed using a police van after officers struggled to bring it under control.
The cow, which is understood to have escaped from a nearby farm, was spotted wandering around roads in Woodley, Berkshire, on Thursday evening.
A police vehicle was later filmed colliding with the animal.
Thames Valley Police said the cow had charged and injured a woman and one of its officers.
A witness told the BBC police hit the cow with a vehicle four times and were "clearly trying to kill it".
A force spokesman said the measures it took were necessary to protect the public.
Resident Shana Tolsma said she became aware of the loose cow after posts on Facebook and initially considered the incident to be amusing.
She said the cow later charged at a man at a bus stop and police were seen trying to find a way to box it in and bring it under control.
However, Ms Tolsma said she was shocked when she saw officers use a van to ram the "scared looking" animal as it walked on Wokingham Road.
"It was hit four different times," she said. "They were clearly trying to kill it - that's for sure.
"It wasn't like they were trying to subdue it and return it to the farmer."
She said the sound of the cow "mooing and crying" after it was hit was "horrible".
"I literally started crying - the police could have done this in so many different ways and everyone was just in shock," she added.
Local residents posted their shock at the animal's death on social media, with many asking the police to explain their actions.
I don’t usually do posts like this. This is absolutely barbaric and unforgivable. A cow escaped a farm not far from me and the police think it’s acceptable to mow the poor animal down?? @ThamesVP you have a lot to answer for!— Cassie King (@CassieKing) May 14, 2021
However, others also commented in support of the officers, with one person posting on a Facebook community page that: "It was getting ridiculous the slating the police were getting last night and this morning. Take it from me who was on scene and sorry to say, some very difficult choices had to be made for public safeguarding."
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said officers and the farmer who owned the animal had initially tried to contain it near the A329M, but it moved to a residential area where it charged and injured a woman and a police officer, as well as damaging vehicles.
The force said the police vehicle was used to prevent the cow from charging towards other members of the public and, after all options were ruled out, the cow was "humanely euthanised".
The spokesman said: "This decision whilst not taken lightly, was necessary to limit the suffering of the animal, to prevent further injury and to ensure the safety of the public.
"The injured Thames Valley Police officer has since been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home."