A campaign comparing people with Down's syndrome to endangered animals such as rhinos, pandas and polar bears has stirred a huge debate online, with some describing the concept as "tone deaf".

The campaign has been launched by the Canadian Down's Syndrome Society in order to raise awareness of the issues that people with Down's syndrome face, with many struggling to enter the workforce and others living in poverty.

On the website for the initiative, the society states that animal welfare organisations are provided with 90 per cent more resources and funding than Down's syndrome organisations in North America.

As part of the campaign, they're striving to have humans officially recognised as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

While some have praised the campaign for raising awareness of the disadvantages that people with development disabilities often experience, others have expressed their opposition to the notion of comparing people with Down's syndrome to animals.

"It is so important to oppose any eugenic efforts against people with Down's syndrome, but this language of speciation/preservation is weird and upsetting," one person tweeted.

"Comparing people to animals isn't a good look," another person wrote.

"The developmentally disabled are still part of the human species and should be treated that way.

"I think your heart was in the right place, but you screwed this one up."

Francie Munoz, a woman with Down's syndrome, spoke to CBC Toronto about her disapproval of the campaign.

"It doesn't matter who you are... I don't like people comparing me as an animal, it's not fair," she said.

"Love us for who we are, not a character, not an animal."

The Canadian Down's Syndrome Society has been defending the campaign online, explaining that it didn't mean to cause offence by having people with Down's syndrome dress as endangered animals.

"We are not, for even one moment, suggesting that people with Down's syndrome are anything other than human," the organisation wrote on Twitter in response to criticism.

"We're communicating that just as many support endangered animals, this community needs attention and support too."

Ben Tarr, a Canadian Down's Syndrome Society board member, explained the motivation behind the campaign.

"So we've actually submitted an application to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and we're looking to be the first human species on their list," he said.

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"The reason for that is, really, we're looking to garner support.

"You know, when you look at the population size of those living with Down's syndrome, what's endangered is actually the support that we get."

Approximately one in every 1,000 babies is born with Down's syndrome, according to the Down's Syndrome Association.

There are currently around 40,000 people with Down's syndrome living in the UK.

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