The gameshow host, her neighbour the huntsman and a crowd baying for blood

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The Independent Online

When leading huntsman Alex Mason invited Anne Robinson to host a spoof version of The Weakest Link in aid of her local pack, he expected a publicity triumph. Instead, the big night descended into chaos, with the TV presenter having to be escorted by police through a crowd of baying animal rights protesters in caricature masks.

Now Mr Mason, a committee member on the Vale of White Horse Hunt in Gloucestershire, has become embroiled in a new row over alleged "entryism" by hunt supporters into the RSPCA.

The 59-year-old farmer hopes to be voted on to the animal welfare charity's 25-strong ruling council in an attempt to challenge its longstanding opposition to blood sports.

News of his impending candidature comes just weeks after he and Ms Robinson, who are next-door neighbours, were barracked by 100 protesters outside a hunt fundraising event dubbed "The Strongest Link" in Cirencester.

The star had earlier enraged anti-hunt campaigners by telling a national newspaper she believed their anger was "whipped up by ignorance", and refusing to watch a fox-hunting video compilation sent to her by the League Against Cruel Sports.

Mr Mason, who already sits on his local RSPCA committee in Cirencester, has been a member of the charity for five years – the minimum period someone must serve before standing for election to the council.

Asked why he had become involved with the charity, Mr Mason, who is also a member of the Countryside Alliance, said his main motive was to restore "balance" to its stance on countryside issues. "The two main reasons would be their stance on hunting and their attitude towards farming," he said.

He added that, if he were elected to the council, he would "inevitably" campaign within it to persuade colleagues to review the society's 26-year opposition to hunting.

Mr Mason denied entryism, however, saying: "I did not join the RSPCA for the sole reason of trying to alter its policy towards hunting."

Others are unconvinced. Paul Richardson, one of his fellow local RSPCA committee members, said: "Until recently, Mr Mason never had anything to do with the society, and then suddenly he joined it. I would call that entryism. In my view, any hunter, especially over the last five years, who has joined the RSPCA has entered it for one reason and one reason only.

"If the policy of the RSPCA is anti-hunt, he shouldn't be in it, let alone in that kind of position."

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, which protested outside the recent White Horse hunt fundraiser, said: "Anyone standing for election in a democratic charity like the RSPCA should make it clear they are committed to animal welfare, and I think that's entirely incompatible with supporting and participating in hunting."

The new controversy comes nine months after the RSPCA expelled the former Olympic showjumping champion Richard Meade for allegedly masterminding a campaign designed to lead to a mass infiltration by hunt supporters. Mr Meade had earlier protested his innocence in a High Court hearing.

An RSPCA spokesman warned: "If we have any evidence of another damaging campaign, the trustees will look at it and make a decision in accordance with the High Court judgment."

Ms Robinson, who is in America filming new episodes of The Weakest Link, was unavailable for comment last night.

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