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2003-Feb-24: Sir Paul Calls for the End of the Waterloo Cup

Today's Mirror has published an article written by Sir Paul pleading for an end to the "barbaric" Waterloo Cup.  Sir Paul writes:
"It's February and spring is just round the corner - the time of year when songwriters wax lyrical about the joys of being alive. For those of us who love the countryside, it's a time to marvel at the renewal of nature after the rigours of winter. Days grow longer and brighter, birds start singing again, love is in the air... or at least it is for most of us. But, for a small minority of people, February brings thoughts not of enjoying nature and celebrating our wildlife but of torturing and killing it. And, appallingly, in order to indulge their lust for tormenting defenceless animals, these individuals converge on a place not far from my home town.

"This week, in Altcar, near Liverpool, the most prestigious event in the hare coursing calendar - the 157th Waterloo Cup - takes place. For anyone who loves animals, hare coursing is a barbaric activity. A crowd gathers around the edge of an arena in a field into which a hare is driven by a small group of people.

"Once the hare has run past a certain point, a man called 'the slipper' sets two greyhounds after it. A mounted judge awards points to each dog for its speed and skill in turning the hare. Points are also awarded for the kill. The dog with the most points wins. It horrifies me that men and women are prepared to treat animals in this way, purely in the name of sport. It's not my idea of fun.

"Each hare is chased by beaters for up to two hours, to move the poor creature into the arena where it must run for its life. If it is caught, it may end up in a tug of war in the jaws of the two dogs, its agony only ending when it is prised out of their mouths to have its neck broken by a 'picker up'.

"The coursers would have us believe that they take no pleasure from the killing of the hare and that coursing is all about the skill of the dogs. but video footage made at last year's event captured not just the sight but the chilling sound of the spectators, cheering as a hare was caught by the two dogs and ripped apart.

"Brown hares are one of our most beautiful species and it's not as though our island is overrun with them. Over the past century, their numbers have declined dramatically and they are now the subject of a 'Biodiversity Action Plan', to maintain and expand their population.  In spite of this, hares may be netted and transported to coursing areas and events, including the Waterloo Cup, to ensure a sufficient supply for this so-called sport.

"If this barbaric practice were carried out on domesticated animals, the people involved would probably be sent to prison and banned from keeping animals for life. And that's as it should be. Many of us have been praying that hare coursing wouldn't survive into the 21st Century. It's inconceivable in this day and age that it should be legal to torture any animal in this way. But at least the writing is on the wall for hare coursing - and, hopefully, for fox-hunting, too.

"If people would consider drag-hunting, where an 'artificial' trail is used, the barbaric aspect of the activity would be removed and the employment question resolved. In fact, it would be possible to create more jobs this way for those who live in the countryside.

"The Bill that MPs are currently debating in Parliament must put an end to the cruel and barbaric hunting of deer, fox, hare and mink with dogs.  Then, and only then, will I deem it safe to venture near my home town during those ill-fated days in February."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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