The League Against Cruel Sports has become embroiled in accusations of hypocrisy after one its most senior officials attended hunt fundraising events.
Martin Sims, the charity’s Director of Investigations, has been seen attending a number of point-to-point meets, which raise money for and have to promote the “furtherance” of hunting.
The retired police officer, whose investigative team carry out covert surveillance on countryside sports, has publicly condemned fox hunting as a “barbaric throwback to crueller times” and a “dark and menacing blight on the countryside”.
Both hunt supporters and saboteurs have described his attendance at the events as “hypocrisy”.
It comes amid turmoil at the charity, which has ousted a number of high-profile trustee and faced public criticism of its tactics.
The “serious and damaging dispute” between members of the organisation has resulted in the Charity Commission offering “formal regulatory advice”, a spokesman for the regulator confirmed.
Yesterday the Telegraph revealed that local saboteurs groups have branded the league a “parasitic organisation” and some had refused to co-operate with it.
It has now emerged that Mr Sims was recognised at the Cornwall Hunt Club point-to-point in Wadebridge on December 9, in which his 22-year-old daughter was competing.
After he was spotted pro-hunting activists began investigating his links to the sport and found a number of images of him including at a Dart Vale and Haldon Harriers event in Buckfastleigh in March, the Shooting Times reported.
Point-to-point rules state when a meet is organised by a hunt it “must include the furtherance of the interests of that particular Hunt or Hunts in general”
One saboteur, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, said: “It is hypocritical, point-to-points prop up the hunt, your essentially putting money in the pocket of the hunt.
“To go himself and to get photographed there is foolish if nothing else.”
The animal rights campaigner said that there would be a question of a conflict of interest if the league were aware of his attendance in advance.
Another activist, who claims to have been ousted from the league by the current leadership after 25 years campaigning, added: “Point to Point is inextricably linked to hunting. Due diligence is about preventing this in 1st place for Leagues sake.”
Mr Sims’ daughter, who is pursuing a career as a jockey, rides a gelding which is owned by her mother.
For a horse to compete in a point-to-point a horse the owner has to pay a subscription to a hunt and the Sims horse is registered with the Tiverton Staghounds, records show.
Tiverton is one of only three packs of staghounds in the country, and the practice has received particular attention from the league.
In November, after a prosecution of the Quantock Staghounds based on video evidence obtained by the League was dropped, Mr Sims described it as a “national disgrace” that deer were being pursued for “cruel sports”.
Mr Sims spent 31 years in the police, working his way up to Chief Inspector of Sussex Police before taking over as the head of Britain’s National Wildlife Crime Unit. The 56-year-old became the Director of Investigations after retiring from the police.
A league spokesman said: ““Martin has attended point to point races where his daughter has ridden. She is pursuing a career as a jockey, and given the dangers, he wanted to be there for her.
“At a recent event, following Martin’s high-profile condemnation of stag hunting on national TV, Martin and his wife were assaulted, with this matter now in the hands of the police.
“Martin is one of the most experienced wildlife crime experts in the country. During his one year in post the number of prosecutions brought to court under his leadership has more than trebled. The hunts know he is a threat to their existence, which is why they are attacking him, both verbally and physically.”