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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 15:14 GMT
Protest at hare coursing cup
Animal rights supporters
About 60 animal rights supporters turned up to protest
Animal rights protesters have held a peaceful demonstration at the country's largest hare coursing event.

More than 60 animal rights protesters carrying placards and banners attended the start of the Waterloo Cup at Great Altcar in Merseyside.

The three-day event attracts up to 10,000 country sport enthusiasts every year and has been the scene of previous demonstrations by protestors.

The 40-minute protest - organised by the League Against Cruel Sports - was watched by 25 police officers.

Coursing tests the dogs' speed, agility and stamina

The first day of the event, at Lord Leverhulme's Altcar estate, near Formby, was delayed due to traffic problems caused by severe weather but coursing was underway by 1030 GMT.

At least one hare had been killed by 1200 GMT.

Protester Kevin Edwards, said: "We hope and we are confident that this is the last time we will have to turn out to watch these perverts enjoying their so-called sport.

"Hare coursing has no place in the new millennium and it is going to be consigned to history."

Coursing enthusiasts say only one in eight coursed hares are killed and the object is to test the greyhounds' speed, agility and stamina.

Hunting ban

But opponents of the cup, cancelled last year due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, say coursing is cruel with many hares little more than "a living rope in a tug of war between two dogs".

Sam Butler, chairman of the Countryside Alliance's Campaign for Hunting, denied that the days of hare coursing are numbered.

He said: "With the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting now established, the publication of the Burns report and the sway in public opinion against a total ban on hunting, the return of the Waterloo Cup promises to be even more popular and well-attended."

Peter Lister of the Countryside Alliance told BBC Radio Merseyside that efforts to ban it through the statute book would be strongly resisted.

"People tend to forget that even countryside minorities have rights as well.

"You can be absolutely sure that after last year's nightmare in the countryside we are going to fight very, very hard for them."

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See also:

14 Feb 02 | Scotland
Hunting ban 'breaches rights'
21 Nov 00 | Scotland
Clashes over hunt ban bill
22 Feb 00 | UK
Hare coursing hunt row
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