Southwark Council says it will investigate any evidence that comes to light after an extraordinary claim by Neil Coyle that officers told him the public can club, shoot or poison foxes.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP waded into the controversial case of an Elephant and Castle-based QC, Jolyon Maugham, who tweeted to his 178,000 followers on Boxing Day that, while wearing a silk kimono, he clubbed a fox to death after finding it entangled in his chicken coop’s wire.
The top lawyer, known for campaigning against Brexit, later apologised for his actions after an outcry and intervention from the RSPCA.
Southwark Council replied to concerned residents that its formal advice, displayed on its website, was to always call the RSPCA in an emergency, or local charity The Fox Project and not to take the matter into your own hands as foxes are a protected species.
But Coyle claims this conflicts with advice he and his constituents are regularly given, arguing the issue is much wider than the “excitable beast” of twitter getting “carried away” over this single case.
“The council has previously advised me that clubbing foxes is OK,” he told the News. “Their most recent advice is that “eradicating” foxes by shooting or poison is acceptable.”
Coyle described the idea of the animals being “cuddly” as “rather silly”, saying over the years many constituents had raised concerns over fox numbers, noise and mess.
“I know some people are squeamish about these things but no one should pretend there are easy answers.
“Some people might try to hide the guidance of council officers because they think it makes them look better on twitter, but that’s not something I worry about as I hope News readers know!”
Richard Livingstone, Tooley Street’s cabinet member for the environment, raised doubts over the claims.
“Both the law and council’s advice on foxes is clear: the law offers them protection and the council does not support illegal actions such as bludgeoning, poisoning, or shooting foxes in an urban environment.
“The council’s webpage on the subject is clear, and council advice is strictly and consistently of a preventative nature.
“We are unclear as to which advice from the council the Member of Parliament is referring to.
“But we have asked his office if he could share this with us, so that we can investigate and, if need be, correct any erroneous advice he may have received in the past.”