Image courtesy of Flickr user: jans canon under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 

Sainsbury’s has faced a public backlash after sending in exterminators to kill three foxes outside its Dartford superstore.

More than 46,000 people signed a petition to boycott Sainsbury’s after a customer witnessed the shooting of a fox at its Crayford branch in Dartford.

The petition has been shared 23,000 times on Facebook and customers have also taken to Twitter to criticise the supermarket’s policy on exterminating foxes, branding it “absolutely disgusting”.

Sainsbury’s has since changed its policy on foxes and vowed to “only use humane deterrents” rather than extermination.

According to an eyewitness, the fox was caught in a trap before being shot outside the premises. The petition on lobbying site Care 2 claims its cubs were later seen “desperately looking for their mother”.

But Sainsbury’s stressed that it did not kill mother foxes and that on this “extremely rare” occasion its pest control experts exterminated three male foxes following “several incidents” at its Crayford store. Two mother foxes at the site were released.

“An independent expert has confirmed our contractor correctly followed industry guidelines in the interests of the safety of our customers and colleagues,” Sainsbury’s said in a statement this morning.

“We follow strict pest control guidelines to try to prevent issues. For example, to avoid attracting foxes we donate the majority of surplus food to charity partners the same day so it isn’t lying around. We also keep floors and surfaces clean to avoid attracting foxes and any other pests. We continue to trial different deterrents with our experts and view trapping foxes as a last resort.

“In the extremely rare event there are issues with foxes in the future, we can confirm that we would only use humane deterrents.”