UnBEARable Cruelty – Bears Are Still Slaughtered to Make the Queen’s Guard’s Caps

For each of the caps used by the Queen’s Guard, a bear is cruelly killed by being either shot or ensnared, sometimes for days, in a painful trap – and British people, a good 95 per cent of whom object to killing animals for fur, are unwittingly paying for it through their taxes. Given the resources, science, and technology at the disposal of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), it’s inexcusable that the same army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims that it’s unable to find a cruelty-free replacement for fur after two decades of “searching” – especially when luxurious faux fur is widely available.

For years, PETA has been calling on the MoD to stop using bear pelts to make headpieces for the five Foot Guards regiments and to have the hats fashioned from luxurious faux fur instead.

About the Bears

For nearly two centuries, the MoD has waged a war on black bears while doing nothing to further the search for synthetic materials to replace the use of their skins.

Bears are cruelly killed for their pelts by being either shot during hunts or ensnared, sometimes for days, in painful traps. During hunts, as many as one bear in seven doesn’t die immediately after being shot, and some escape wounded, possibly dying later from blood loss or starvation. In some Canadian provinces, there are no restrictions on the shooting of mothers who have nursing cubs, leading to the slaughter of entire families during hunts.

Instead of financially supporting the shameful slaughter of black bears, the UK should set a compassionate example by switching to a humane and progressive alternative and committing to stopping the killing.

Celebrity Support

Celebrities, politicians, and influencers have joined PETA in speaking out for bears and signing our petition to the MoD. Over the years, figures as varied as Morrissey, Tony Benn, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, Jilly Cooper, Amanda Holden, Brian Sewell, Hayley Mills, Jerome Flynn, Pamela Anderson, Mary McCartney, Brett Anderson, Sadie Frost, Brooke Johnston, Siouxsie Sioux, Fernanda Tavares, Jeff Beck, Twiggy, Imogen Bailey, Julian Clary, Bea Arthur, Sir Roger Moore, Ricky Gervais, Glenda Jackson, Michael Sheen, Kate Ford, Sadiq Khan, and former MPs Ian Cawsey and Norman Baker have all asked the MoD or Her Majesty the Queen to replace the bearskin used in the Guard’s caps with a cruelty-free, modern material.

  • “The issue I am writing to you about today is not a laughing matter. . . . Won’t you please take the necessary steps to replace the bearskins used for the Guards’ caps with a synthetic material? I understand and appreciate the importance of uniforms, but continuing to use real fur in the 21st century is inexcusable, regardless of ‘tradition’.” – Ricky Gervais

  • “When [PETA] told me that black bears in my native Canada are still being killed to make the ceremonials hats worn by Your Majesty’s Household Guards, I was horrified.” – Pamela Anderson

  • “With all the brilliant fibres and fabrics now available, the guards can certainly maintain that wonderful look without killing innocent bears. I humbly ask Her Majesty to do whatever she can to stop animals from being killed to make these hats.” – Bea Arthur

The Campaign So Far

In 2003, PETA Europe first asked the MoD to stop using bear pelts to make headpieces for the five Foot Guards regiments. The campaign has engaged celebrities, politicians, the public, and even former guards themselves. It has also involved fashion experts and innovators. For more than 15 years, PETA has worked with Stella McCartney and faux-fur manufacturers to find a humane alternative to the indefensible killing of black bears in Canada for the iconic bearskin caps.

A 2006 YouGov poll commissioned by PETA Europe found that nearly 80 per cent of respondents were opposed to the use of taxpayer money to kill Canadian black bears and fashion their skins into ceremonial caps. In just  seven years, the MOD has squandered more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money.

PETA Europe took the campaign to Parliament. Early day motion 1756 of 2005, signed by 207 MPs, stated that “this House recognises that the bearskin hats worn by the five guards regiments have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty; and invites the Government to end their use and substitute hats made from fake fur.” Among the supporters were Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan, Ann Widdecombe, Vince Cable, and Glenda Jackson.

PETA supporters have also been involved in eye-catching demonstrations to keep the issue in the public eye, including staging a “die-in” to tell the naked truth about cruelty to bears and orchestrating a “21-bum salute”  to the MoD in London.

And PETA and our affiliates have been dedicated in encouraging environmentalist Prince Charles to take a stand against fur. PETA’s “bear” tailed His Royal Highness at public engagements as an ambearsador for his Canadian cousins who are killed so that their skins can be made into caps.

PETA members wearing the costume followed the prince to the US and Canada, where they attended public engagements in Washington and San Francisco with a sign reading, “God Save the Bears.” At Hanover Square in New York, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, accepted a “Bearskins Are for Bears, Not Guards” leaflet from the PETA “bear”. Back in the UK, during a royal visit to the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, the prince spoke with the “bear”, saying, “I recognise you! I’ve seen you in America!” And just a couple of days later in Bristol, the prince once again was approached and remarked, “My, you are being very persistent!”

In 2012, PETA’s biggest demonstration yet took place as hundreds marched through central London – some dressed as bears and others carrying teddy bears – to speak up for the beautiful bears cruelly killed for the caps and to send a clear message to the MoD that it’s time to relegate the use of bearskin to the history books. Beginning at Westminster Bridge and finishing at Marble Arch, participants covered a grand total of 3 miles, with beloved twitcher Bill Oddie and actor Peter Egan at the head of the march.

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