Hirst's installation works have studiously courted controversy since he burst on the scene a few years ago. But his Turner Prize entry, showing a cow and calf bisected longitudinally and presented in a glass case, was the first exhibit at the Tate Gallery to provoke a demonstration by animal lovers.
Mother and Child Divided allegedly explores the themes of mortality and isolation. In a less provocative display of work, Hirst also exhibited two of his "spot" paintings - white canvases covered with a slightly irregular grid of coloured circles.
Hirst, 30, was tipped to win the prize, and is a favourite of the contemporary art establishment and fashion designers who are increasingly using him as a male model.
He has been shortlisted for the Turner Prize once before, three years ago. Previous exhibits include both a shark and a sheep pickled in formaldehyde and displayed in glass. Yesterday he said: "I haven't killed anything for art. I like people who like animals."
The Turner Prize being what it is, Hirst's winning exhibit could not claim to be the most controversial. One of the short-listed entrants was Mona Hatoum, whose video of her own internal organs used medical technology to have cameras inserted into her.
The Tate Gallery's catalogue explained: "As the camera encounters an orifice, it enters, and the interminable forested landscape of the surface gives way to glowing subterranean tunnels lined with pulsating animate tissue, moist and glistening."
Also on the shortlist were Callum Innes, abstract painter, and Mark Wallinger, whose works included a video of the Queen arriving at Ascot races.
The Turner Prize shortlist is exhibited at the Tate Gallery until the end of the week.
Images of Mr Hirst's bisected animals and of the other artists' work will also be available across the Internet.
The judges included Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery (chairman); Elizabeth MacGregor, director of the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; and the art critic William Feaver.
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