Bradford MP and Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe has hit out after pro-animal campaigners accused him of promoting cruel sports.

On Tuesday – the second day of National Shooting Week – Animal Aid’s new mascot, Phileas the Pheasant, will be visiting the city highlighting the “cruel sport” of gamebird shooting.

The campaigners said they chose Bradford because the Bradford South MP attended a reception staged by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), a pro-shoot lobby group, at last year’s Labour Party Conference.

Mr Sutcliffe criticised the claims as “ridiculous”.

A BASC spokesman said: “Gerry Sutcliffe MP, the Minister for Sport, pledged that the Labour Party would continue to support shooting and fishing which he said played an important part in the lives of five million people in the UK.”

But Mr Sutcliffe said the comments were being taken out of context.

He said: “This is ridiculous. I did speak at the reception about shooting, but I do not support killing birds.

“What was said was we support shooting and fishing. We recently won medals for shooting.

“Saying I support cruel shooting is simply not correct.

“I was part of Bradford Council when we stopped shooting on Ilkley Moor. It was the Tories who re-introduced it.”

The lobbying group say more than 40 million pheasants and partridges are intensively reared each year, to be used as feathered targets, with hundreds of thousands of breeding birds confined inside metal battery cages.

Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said: “The Government is applying an irrational double standard to bloodsports – banning hunting with dogs whilst cosying up to the pro-shoot lobby.

“Animal Aid’s National Anti-Shooting Week will expose this hypocrisy to people across the country.

“We have also alerted every Labour backbench MP to the fact that, with Cameron’s Tories on the ascendance, this issue places Labour parliamentary seats at serious risk.’ A film showing the “greed” of the gamebird industry has also been sent to every MP by the group which is calling for a change in Government policy on the subject.