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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 16:13 GMT
'Disobedience' threat by hunt lobby
Two hounds chase a hare at the Waterloo Cup
A hare jumps to avoid the hounds at the Waterloo Cup
Crowds gathered on Tuesday for what could be the last outing of one of the UK's oldest hare coursing events.

More than 100 protestors demonstrated at the Waterloo Cup in Lancashire for 45 minutes but there were no clashes with coursing supporters and no arrests.

About 10,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event which faces extinction if a ban on hunting is made law.

Those attending the Cup at Altcar, near Formby, were told the government faces "civil disobedience" if the law is passed.

But the RSPCA, which sends undercover officers to monitor the event, welcomed the likely end to what it called the Cup's "bloodlust".

From the meadow, runs a hare, squat, powerful and fast

Spokesman Kevin Hegarty said: "It looks very likely that this will be the last Waterloo Cup and we welcome that.

"Hare-coursing enthusiasts will tell you the aim of the 'sport' is not to kill the hare but to test the skill of the dogs.

"But it is about bloodlust, not the skill of the dogs."

RSPCA figures show one in five hares is killed at the Waterloo Cup.

But Sam Butler, chairman of the Countryside Alliance Campaign for Hunting, said it had constantly made the case in favour of hunting during the government-commissioned Burns inquiry into the activity.

Waterloo Cup protesters

Speaking through a megaphone at the event, he said: "We have done [this] through the Burns inquiry and through the consultation process.

"We have also said that our campaigning will not inconvenience the public and will remain peaceful.

"We continue to stand by that, but it would be stupid to think that we are not making contingency plans.

"Call it disobedience if you like, but we will show this government that they cannot carry on... ignoring the will of the people."

Animal rights protesters were expected to stage demonstrations at the event.

A Lancashire Constabulary spokesman said events will be monitored by officers.

The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"Supporters claim only one in eight hares is actually killed"

In pictures: Hare coursing
25 Feb 03 |  Photo Gallery
In pictures: Hare coursing
28 Feb 02 |  UK News
Protest at hare coursing cup
26 Feb 02 |  England

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