The Waterloo Cup hare coursing event in Altcar, Merseyside is a time honoured tradition, begun in 1836 that attracts up to 10,000 spectators. But the weekend of February 14th saw the last ever Cup event to be held in the UK, prior to the start of the Hunting Act on February 18th. Hare coursing is now banned along with fox hunting.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which condemns the sport as cruel, said: "This Valentine's Day will hold no romance for British hares heralding as it does the start of the Waterloo Cup - a horrific event that derives pleasure from the pursuit and death of these wild mammals."
However, the National Coursing Club claims that seven out of eight hares coursed survive and argues that flight is a natural response to the hare and deny charges of causing suffering.
The crowd is a complete mix, from the “snobs” in their Range Rovers to the lurchermen and poachers and enthusiastic crowds from the council estates of Merseyside. They all cheer as the hares escape – on this particular day only four hares were killed out of 60 courses.
It is the end of another piece of traditional Britain. Next year the event may be held in Ireland or Chile but that same mixed crowd of people will have no reason to return to this field.