The 157th Waterloo Cup has begun with a stand-off between animal rights protesters and hunt supporters.
Hare coursing is finished say animal rights campaigners
Around 150 protesters exchanged insults with the crowd in an hour-long protest at the UK's largest hare course event.
More than 100 police officers separated the two sides on either side of a barbed wire fence at the gathering in Altcar near Formby.
Around 10,000 people are expected to
attend over the next three days.
Veteran animal rights campaigner Tony 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."
But supporters of the event said they were determined to see the historic sport continue.
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."
TV cook Clarissa Dickson Wright says a good hare can outrun a greyhound
The event in Great Altcar will see 64 greyhounds from all over Britain and Ireland
A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance said that two hares had died in
the first 10 courses of the event.
Emma Milne, from BBC's Vets in Practice programme, who is backing a campaign
by the International Fund for animal Welfare 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."
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
"A good hare can outrun a greyhound any day and it shows the ability of the
"I have never heard one rational reason why this should not happen."
On Monday, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) released "shocking" footage which they hope will persuade people to back a ban.
The video, which has also been backed by the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports, shows two hunting dogs chasing down a hare before pulling it in opposite directions.