COUNTRYSIDE Alliance boss Sir Edward Dashwood has hit back strongly at allegations he offers tourists chances to kill endangered species on big game hunting trips to Africa.

The League Against Cruel Sports claims the 39-year-old provided shooting holidays through his West Wycombe based company EJ Churchill charging between £500 and £19,000 for trophy kills.

But Sir Edward, chairman of the Countryside Alliance's Campaign for Shooting, told the Free Press: "I don't know where people have got this idea from. I am a passionate hunter and conservationist. I've never tried to sell a big game safari. There was an old business we took over that was still advertising big game safaris in a small part of its brochure. It's not something we were selling. It's a gospel fact that we have never sent a single person on a big game safari. Its clear as black and white."

An investigation by The League Against Cruel Sports claimed the company catered for hunters seeking the "big five" of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.

Britons are among a growing number of enthusiasts opting for big-game hunting trips, which are available on the internet. Figures from the Convention on International Trade in endangered species shows that in the last six years hunters from Europe, Canada and the USA have killed more than 3,800 elephants, 2,600 leopards, 1,600 lions and 539 cheetahs.

John Cooper, chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The hunting of rare and endangered animals for sport has nothing to do with conservation. It does have everything to do with cruelty, greed and making money."

One of the country's top ten game shots Sir Edward, who owns the West Wycombe Estate and EJ Churchill shooting ground near Lane End, has been chairman of the Countryside Alliance's Campaign for Shooting for 18-months.

Although the Alliance portrays itself as a protector of the countryside opponents insist its aim is to continue safeguarding traditional bloodsports such as fox hunting.

Tim Dunst, of the Countryside Alliance, said its policy on game management did not extend outside of the UK, and what Sir Edward did was his private business.

He added: "The idea this is a huge embarrassment to the Alliance is absolute nonsense. We are happy to comment on wildlife issues, but the shooting of wild game abroad is beyond our remit."