Hundreds of York residents have signed a petition demanding a ban on the use of snares to control predatory wildlife, such as foxes.

The subject was debated in parliament this week, with York Central MP Rachael Maskell backing such a ban, adding foxes are unfairly vilified.

The government has since issued a call for evidence on the use of snares.

In 1981, self-locking snares were banned. These snares used a wire loop, which tighten as the animal struggles, aiming to strangle it.

The still-legal free-running snares use a wire loop but these relax when the animal stops struggling. These are mainly used by gamekeepers to catch and then kill wildlife.

The parliamentary debate followed a petition from 102,616 people.

Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher (Con) moved the debate, noting snares often trap the wrong animal, including cats, dogs, badgers and deer, causing a painful death.

But they also help save birds such as lapwing and curlew from becoming extinct due to being killed by foxes.

Scarborough and Whitby MP Sir Robert Goodwill (Con) told the House foxes do not have effective controls, which are needed “not only for agriculture but for wildlife.”

The farmer and MP said foxes often kill new-born lambs and outdoor piglets. Urban foxes released into the countryside will also kill poultry even in daytime.

He added: “I hope we will continue to responsibly use cable restraints as a way of managing our countryside and ensuring that our wildlife and our economic interests in terms of game and agriculture are protected.”

However, Rachael Maskell (Lab) responded: “Snares are cruel- no ifs, no buts. They cause suffering and must be banned.”

Some 418 people from York had signed the petition, including 216 from her constituency.

Ms Maskell said Labour announced such a ban in 2016. The parliaments of Scotland and Wales are moving towards one and just four European Union countries still use snares.

“We must not be left behind in an archaic age where man thinks he has a right to go and hunt and enjoy the game and sport. Animals should never be our sport. They are precious parts of creation, which we must nurture and care for.”

The MP said farmers could use more shepherds at lambing time and called for an end to the ‘vilification’ of foxes.

“It is the most magnificent of creatures. Every time I see a fox, I stop and see how magnificent, intelligent and beautiful it is.”

Before asking for a time-frame on possible legislation, Ms Maskell added fox hunting still continues and trail-hunts should be banned.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Trudy Harrison MP, said she hoped to publish an environmental improvement plan this month.  She would also contact Ms Maskell about a similar animal welfare action plan.