“It is time,” announced an editorial in the pro-hunt Daily Telegraph in May 2002, “for all those seeking to represent rural life… to ask themselves whether they should not take the gloves off.” This call for militancy was taken up by the Real Countryside Alliance which promised “a campaign of disruption” that would be “very strongly anti-Blair and anti-Labour”.
Edward Duke, a Yorkshire businessman and former chairman of the Countryside Alliance, is widely associated with the group, which is named after the Real IRA. The Real IRA is responsible for the single worst atrocity of the Troubles; the Omagh bomb planted during the town’s civic week in August 1998 killed 29 men, women and children. The organisation was also responsible for a series of other terrorist attacks.
The militant pro-hunting group provided a convenient front for the extremist elements within the hunt fraternity which had always existed. This allowed hunt supporters to carry out illegal activity without damaging the reputation of ‘law-abiding’ hunt groups. In Cheshire a fox was strung up from a tree with a sign saying “Welcome to REAL Country – The Cheshire Hunting Country” to warn anti-hunt protesters of the threat they faced.
At the time, in public at least, the Countryside Alliance leaders condemned the Real Countryside Alliance, with Mr Jackson and Mr Burge commenting: “The Alliance deplores this group’s use, both in its name and in its poster, of the symbolism of political violence in Northern Ireland. The implications, even if unintentional, that such tactics could ever be legitimate are an affront to the Northern Ireland community who have suffered so much as well as to all the decent law-abiding hunting communities in Britain”.
Mr Jackson and Mr Burge also criticised the group’s launch statement which threatened to use the tactics of public disruption. “These tactics are not justified and are an affront to any responsible society which respects the rule of law” the Alliance’s statement said. The officials at the Waterloo Cup weren’t so offended by the REAL IRA association and allowed the Real Countryside Alliance flag to be flown at the 2003 event which was attended by senior Countryside Alliance officials.
The Real Countryside Alliance’s large green Union Jack stickers were sent to hunts and hunt supporters. The stickers have caused thousands of pound worth of damage to road and traffic signs throughout the country. Close to the Cheshire Hunt’s kennels over a hundred signs have been damaged by this large stickers which are impossible to remove without damaging the signs. Public and private property was attacked by those claiming to be from the Real Countryside Alliance, whilst MPs were targetted and their offices attacked.
In light of the Countryside Alliance subsequent behaviour the words of Jackson and Burge of 2002 sound highly hypocritical, but hunting is founded on lies and hypocrisy.