14 February 2000
Hare coursers gather for top event

HARE coursers will gather in Lancashire later this month for the premier event of the coursing calendar — the Waterloo Cup.

Enthiusiasts say the three-day event, which features 64 greyhounds competing for the prestigious trophy, contributes to the conservation of the brown hare.

But the RSPCA, which opposes all hunting with dogs, says the issue is primarily one of animal welfare.

The National Coursing Club event, which dates back to 1836, is held at Lord Leverhulmes Altcar estate.

Dr Stephen Tapper, deputy director general of the Game Conservancy Trust, said that during a 12-year study at Altcar hare numbers remained high throughout, and increased in nine years.

He said: “Given that the life expectancy of hares living on farmland is low, normally 50 per cent die each year, the effect of coursing mortality on the hare population is negligible.”

Dr Tapper said the GCT research put hare mortality through coursing as low as 4%.

He added: “We think the conservation of good hare stocks at Altcar is certainly attributable to the coursing interest there and especially the Waterloo Cup.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “Were more concerned with animal welfare. Is it necessary and ethical to have an animal running for its life, possibly on several occasions before its killed?

“What effects does that have on the physiology of an animal which is in considerable distress?

“It also raises questions about the people who go to watch this so-called sport.”

The Waterloo Cup is being held between 22-24 February. More than 10,000 spectators are expected to attend.