In the last two days, more than 16,000 signatures have been added to an online petition calling for London’s mayor to end an anticipated "fox cull" in the new year. The killing of foxes by professional exterminators is legal in London, but no organized mass extermination has been announced by the authorities.
The petition, titled "For Fox Sake Stop The London Fox Cull!" was organized by animal rights activists affiliated with Britain’s Labour Party. The text of the petition calls on Mayor Sadiq Khan to step in to prevent "hundreds of London foxes" from being killed in the aftermath of the festive season.
London is home to thousands of foxes, which become a considerable nuisance to city residents when mounds of holiday trash tempt the animals out into the open.
In addition to signatures, hundreds of supportive comments have been added to the original text of the petition.
Although no formal fox killing program is planned in London, the petition does link to a news article which quotes one private contractor who says he expects to kill more foxes in January. The headline describes this expected increase as a "cull," although the exterminator Tom Keightley himself is never directly quoted using the term. Keightley blames food waste during the holiday season for an increase in fox activity at this time of year.
Although estimating the size of London’s fox population is difficult, researchers at the University of Bristol's Mammal Research Unit have said there may be as many as 33,000 foxes in London, as there were when the last fox census was conducted in the 1980s.