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Campaigners in protest at the Waterloo cup

THE 157th Waterloo Cup, the premier event in the hare-coursing calendar, took place last week with an ill-tempered standoff between animal rights protesters and field sports supporters. About 150 animal rights campaigners exchanged insults with the 7,000-strong crowd in an hour-long protest at the UK’s largest hare course event.

More than 100 police officers separated the two sides who took up standpoints on either side of a barbed wire fence at the gathering at Great Altcar, Lancashire, at which 64 greyhounds from all over Britain and Ireland were due to compete. About 10,000 people attended the venue over the following three days.

Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "All of the organisations have so far failed to come up with any decent reason to make this a criminal offence. And many people think that there are more important issues that Parliament should be dealing with."

Hare coursing, along with deer hunting, would almost certainly be outlawed if the Government reintroduces the ‘stalled’ Hunting Bill in this session of Parliament, but the anti-field sports lobby remains nervous about ministerial commitment. However, supporters of the event said they were determined to see the historic sport continue.

John Rolls, the RSPCA’s Director of Animal Welfare Promotion, said: "The Government must now deliver on its promises and ban hare coursing, along with all forms of hunting with dogs, during this parliamentary session.

"Only when this barbaric event has been consigned to history will Liverpool be able to live up to its full potential as the European City of Culture."

Bizarre

Emma Milne from BBC’s Vets in Practice programme, who is backing an International Fund for Animal Welfare campaign to ban the event, was attending the Waterloo Cup for the first time. She said: "I think it is very bizarre. They could still do all of this and use a false hare. I have not heard one good argument about why they do not.

"If a group of teenagers from an inner-city council estate set their dogs on a cat then there would be uproar. This is completely unacceptable."

The television cook Clarissa Dickson-Wright, whose hound Dragon Fly was knocked out of the event, said: "The whole point of coursing is about using a real hare, a good hare can outrun a greyhound any day and it shows the ability of the dog. I have never heard one rational reason why this should not happen."

The actor Vinnie Jones’s hound Smoking Girl was also knocked out of the event.
Tony Moore, chairman of animals rights group Fight Against Animal Cruelty In Europe, said he expected heated confrontations between protesters and coursing supporters. He added he was confident this would be the last Waterloo Cup.

As he marched to join the demonstration, Mr Moore said: "We are going to meet some very nasty people and we are expecting a lot of abuse. If it weren't for the police I think a lot of them would try to get to us -they have tried in the past.

"They see us as spoiling their fun. We are small compared to their large numbers. We aren't going to let the rain or the wind stop us because we want to see an end to this barbaric event."

Mr Moore, whose wife Vicky was gored by a bull during a demonstration at a Spanish fiesta, said: "This is the United Kingdom’s best kept secret. Nobody in the rest of Europe knows that this is going on. It is disgusting. Hare coursing is finished, this will be the last one."

Colin Pickthall, the Labour MP whose constituency takes in Altcar, said: "The elected chamber has consistently voted by huge majorities to ban hunting with dogs. Our will cannot be ignored. I am confident that the end of coursing with dogs is nigh."