‘Promoting cruelty’: an advert for this week’s shooting fair. Image: Twitter

A leading animal rights charity has criticised a venue in Islington for agreeing to host a two-day bird shooting fair this week.

On Friday and Saturday, the Business Design Centre (BDC) on Upper Street will be the setting for the inaugural London Wing Shooting Fair – where guests paying £15-a-pop can peruse guns and watch demonstrations from “influential speakers”.

Host: the Business Design Centre on Upper Street. Photograph: Matt Brown via Flickr

Wing shooting involves gunning down so-called game birds such as pheasants and partridges while they are in flight.

Campaign group League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) has accused the BDC of “promoting cruelty in the name of fun” by hosting the fair, saying “huge numbers of animals are persecuted and killed every year as a result of the commercial ‘game’ bird shooting industry”.

The fair is the brainchild of co-founders and organisers John Kelley and his son Fergus, who are also running the second London Fly Fishing Fair in a neighbouring hall at the BDC.

Both Kelley and the BDC have so far failed to respond to requests for comment.

Last year, Kelley told Shooting Times magazine that the philosophy behind both fairs is “promoting the sport and lifestyle by using leading influencers”.

LACS’s deputy director of campaigns, Chris Pitt, said: “Sadly, many people who think that going shooting sounds like it could be a bit of fun for the weekend are unaware of the shocking animal cruelty involved in the sport.

“Huge numbers of animals are persecuted and killed every year as a result of the commercial ‘game’ bird shooting industry, from the millions of pheasant, grouse and partridge shot during season to the countless victims that fall prey to indiscriminate snares – a brutal form of pest control that game keepers use to ‘protect’ valuable ‘game’ bird stocks.”

Over 159,000 people have signed LACS’s petition calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to give game birds the same legal protection as livestock.

The petition says birds bred for sport are often “stacked in wire-mesh cages that crack their feet”, and that many “don’t even reach the moment they are released in estates to be brutally killed”.

Pitt added: “Before they’re released to be shot, pheasants and partridges are reared in intensive conditions that are even worse than the ones inflicted on farmed chickens, and many birds aren’t killed outright but will be wounded and suffer unnecessarily before dying.

“On grouse moors birds of prey are targeted, with some species on the brink of extinction, and the intensive burning practices carried out to promote habitat for grouse is responsible for catastrophic environmental damage.

“It’s clear to see that with this level of wildlife persecution and the environmental costs, that shooting for ‘sport’ is not a lifestyle but a curse and we would much rather see the Business Design Centre being used to promote activities that don’t involve cruelty to animals in the name of ‘fun’.”