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The MoD must embrace the free, animal-friendly alternative to bearskins

The MoD must embrace the free, animal-friendly alternative to bearskins
Mimi Bekhechi

Mimi Bekhechi | People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

4 min read Partner content

The data is clear, British people are overwhelmingly opposed to wearing fur yet the Ministry of Defence refuses to modernise the bearskin caps of the Queen's Guard. With equally-effective synthetic materials readily available, the solution is obvious - it's time to make this British icon cruelty-free.

Like Canadian black bears, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace is under fire – in his case, metaphorically, for shamefully refusing to modernise the Queen’s Guard’s caps, despite being offered an alternative that’s not only viable but superior and indistinguishable from real bearskin.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has repeatedly claimed that it “is not opposed to the use of synthetic materials as an alternative to bearskins, provided such materials meet the requirement for a high-quality product that performs adequately in all weather conditions”and, during a meeting with PETA, committed to using faux fur as soon as a suitable material could be provided.

Now, after extensive research and development – at no cost to and requiring no effort from the government – such a material exists. World-renowned faux-fur producer ECOPEL has created an innovative fabric that not only matches bear fur’s unique 9.5-centimetre length but also passed a rigorous MoD-copyrighted water test – commissioned by PETA and carried out by the ministry’s own accredited testing facility – proving that it meets all the MoD’s requirements and is 100% waterproof.

It’s also being offered free of charge to the MoD until 2030. Given that the government has spent over £1 million of taxpayer money on bear fur hats over the past seven years, switching to faux fur wouldn’t just save bears, it would save us a whole lot of money that could be put to much better use than producing purely ceremonial caps.

As things stand, each one of the caps represents the violent killing of at least one Canadian black bear

This move would also reflect the progressive views towards animals and the environment held by the animal-loving British public, 95% of whom are opposed to real fur and refuse to wear it. The Guard’s namesake herself, Her Majesty the Queen, has sworn off fur.

As things stand, each one of the caps represents the violent killing of at least one Canadian black bear. PETA US released shocking video footage taken during a bear hunt, and the complete disregard for life that it reveals would disgust any decent person and should cause the MoD to run screaming from any association with such wanton carnage.

The footage includes shots of a hungry mother bear being lured to a bait site and gunned down in cold blood – leaving her cub orphaned. Baiting bears in this way is both cowardly and cruel.

Killing a mother bear is also a death sentence for her cubs, who depend on her for everything. Wildlife biologists estimate that 70% of bear cubs who are orphaned will die within a year – succumbing to starvation, exposure, or predation.

The video also shows that bears are often shot multiple times and many do not die right away. Some escape, wounded, only to face a slow, agonising death from blood loss, gangrene, dehydration, or infection. No animal deserves to be subjected to such cruelty.

We don’t need to be paying for the massacre of wildlife overseas to maintain our Guard’s proud tradition. And despite Mr Wallace’s long history of actively opposing any switch to faux fur for the caps, the British Army has shown us that it is possible to keep the look but lose the cruelty of military uniforms: It replaced the leopard skin worn by military band drummers with a synthetic version, and the King’s Troop eliminated the beaver fur in their smaller busbies in favour of a faux alternative.

There is no doubt that the Queen’s Guard’s bearskin caps are iconic. There is also absolutely no doubt that their production is cruel. Continuing to kill bears for their fur in the 21st century when the MoD can switch to a synthetic material that makes a stunningly impressive cap and is so lightweight that fewer guards will pass out while on parade is unconscionable. The upgrade has passed all the tests, and it won’t cost taxpayers a penny.

The MoD’s brief has been met – now, it needs to honour its commitment and quick-march it into service.

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