Published: 00:00, 16 December 2014
| Updated: 11:41, 16 December 2014
Golf club bosses have agreed to pause a cull of foxes on their land after thousands condemned the action online.
A leaked email of minutes from a Dartford Golf Club meeting revealed their decision to let a marksmen slaughter fox families with a shotgun to “prepare our bunkers to a satisfactory standard”.
However, Matthew Streets, general manager of the club, has now announced that “no further activity will now take place” until a policy review early next year.
The decision to halt the cull was made after KentOnline first reported on the email which was leaked onto social media, sparking a mass debate.
Last week, Mr Streets confirmed that the contents of the email were true and said it was done due to the “general damage and trails of excrement” the creatures left behind.
A petition was set up demanding that the club stops killing foxes, which has attracted over 2,500 signatures in just six days.
Richey Estcourt, 37, who set up the petition, was pleased with the decision but said that this is not the end of the matter for him.
He said: “I’m glad that they have decided to stop this. It sounds like we have managed to achieve something here, but it doesn’t stop the damage that has been done.
“We would have liked to see some sort of public consultation on this in the first place, and I just hope that when they do review this policy they consult the public on it.
“I am glad we have got something done here, but we have to keep a close eye on them.”
Mr Estcourt had threatened to organise a protest at the club if they continued to shoot the animals.
Before the ceasefire was announced, he told the Messenger: “This is a breach of ethical code. Essentially, what they are doing is putting the leisure activities and profit of a few people who play golf before the lives of creatures who are living in their natural habitat.
“What they don’t seem to realise is that if they kill a few dozen foxes, they are just going to be replaced by more. You’re just going to have to do it over and over again.
"Foxes are very good at reproducing, so they have essentially been killed for no purpose and they are not going to achieve anything there.
“There is so much criticism of foxes in urban areas, but this is their natural environment. It is repugnant.”
The news was shared on Facebook by The Fox Project, a charity dedicated to the red fox, which has cased a social media storm – attracting over 1,000 likes and 350 comments.
Sue Jones posted: “I think it’s disgusting that ‘grown’ men can resort to this kind of tactical behaviour to solve minor damage to their golf course.
“Golf [is] only a game, a pass time, and I think it’s despicable that they are planning this kind of action. Don’t take yourselves so seriously, you golfers, leave the wildlife alone.”
Patricia Jones added: “This is totally unacceptable, what real harm can a few foxes do to a golf green? Leave the foxes and the rest of nature alone. Everything has the right to live.”
A spokesman for The Fox Project said: “Killing or relocating foxes is not effective. Even this government - which is not wildlife-friendly by nature - takes the view that no useful purpose is served by repeatedly killing a species that is self-regulating, with territories being re-occupied by other foxes within a matter of days.
“This is especially true at this point of the year when cubs that have recently dispersed from their family groups are seeking out vacant territory.
“Apart from being ineffective, relocating foxes is illegal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (which absorbed the terms of the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960) unless carried out by experts.
“Pest controllers and leisure shooters are seldom experts on fox behaviour. Genuine experts are universally agreed that deterrent methods are the only sustainable means of resolving conflict with foxes. That approach is, therefore, our policy and our associated deterrence consultancies are ever ready to assist where problems arise.”
According to the website of The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, there are no specific legal restrictions on the night shooting of foxes and any authorised person may legally carry out this form of fox control.