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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February 2005, 20:14 GMT
Arrests as coursing event starts
Police and pro-hunt supporters
Police kept apart pro-hunt and anti-hunt supporters
Four people have been arrested on the first day of the final Waterloo Cup hare coursing event in Merseyside.

Dozens of coursing enthusiasts were forced back by mounted police as they tried to clash with protesters.

A dismembered hare and a firecracker were among the missiles thrown at anti-blood sports protesters.

The three-day event was planned for next week, but was brought forward to avoid the impending ban on hunting which becomes law from Friday.

Police on horseback

About 200 demonstrators marched to the event banging drums, sounding air horns and carrying banners and placards.

Hundreds of spectators stood behind wire fences and shouted abuse at the protesters.

A hare's head and dismembered body was thrown at the demonstrators, along with mud, bottles, empty cans and a firecracker.

The protest was policed by more than 50 officers, including several on horseback.

At least two pro-hunting spectators were led away in handcuffs by police.

Hare coursing

The event, which once attracted crowds of 75,000 and started in 1836, used to run in tandem with the Grand National.

Anti-hunt campaigners had said they would mount a peaceful protest to highlight why Parliament made the sport illegal.

In the event, highly trained greyhounds are tested for speed and agility as they chase a brown hare across a field.

BBC correspondent John Thorne said that its thousands of supporters thought of hare coursing as a "fine old traditional countryside activity".

But opponents claim it is cruel and barbaric, he added.

They argue that a blood-thirsty minority enjoys being entertained watching terrified hares running for their lives and some being brutally torn apart.

The final Waterloo Cup is expected to attract more than 10,000 supporters.

Watch the scenes as emotions ran high

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