PETA Took Ben Wallace to Court Over Bearskins Caps
Update (1 March 2023): We won’t give up on the campaign for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to switch from using real bear fur to a faux fur alternative to make the ornamental headpieces worn by the King’s Guard, despite a High Court decision denying our application for judicial review.
We called for a judicial review on the grounds of unlawful conduct, as Ben Wallace failed to follow due process by refusing even to review new test results that prove the faux bear fur meets his department’s criteria for a faux fur. But the court rejected the application, stating that whether or not to accept the test results is a “discretionary decision” – a judgement that allows Wallace to continue to waste taxpayer money and will cost countless bears their lives.
Though the MoD has repeatedly refused requests to meet with us or faux-furrier ECOPEL, we have renewed our appeals to work collaboratively and in earnest with the department and its cap-makers to find constructive solutions to any perceived barriers. In a letter sent to the MoD following the court’s decision, we offered to pay for new laboratory testing to be done at an MoD-accredited facility – a side-by-side comparison of the faux fur against the real bear fur – with representatives from PETA and the MoD on site to ensure full transparency and so that both sides can work together to unveil a modern, humane faux fur King’s Guard cap. We hope the MoD will accept this offer and honour its commitment to working with us to make the switch to humane faux fur.
It certainly should not take a court’s intervention for Wallace to agree to end the MoD’s war on black bears. It’s indefensible for the ministry to continue to use the fur of slaughtered bears for ornamental hats when a viable alternative is ready and waiting to be rolled out. PETA has gone to considerable expense to create a faux bearskin cap that meets all the stated criteria, and we will keep the pressure on the MoD so that, after nearly 20 years of stalling, a faux fur cap can finally be marched into service.
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Update (9 December 2022): PETA has filed for a judicial review against Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace on the grounds that, when it came to assessing the world’s first faux bear – created by ECOPEL to replace the King’s Guard’s bearskin caps – the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to adhere to its own procedures, behaved unfairly, breached procedural expectation, and exhibited flawed decision-making, amounting to unlawful conduct.
In the lawsuit, PETA outlines how the MoD’s refusal to trial the faux fur or evaluate the findings of laboratory testing, which shows that the fabric meets and in some areas exceeds the ministry’s standards, is in breach of the promise that the department has long made to replace the bearskin once a suitable alternative is found. Wallace, who is responsible for overseeing the MoD, has a long history of actively opposing any switch to faux fur for the caps.
Original post (28 October 2022):
Today, PETA sent a letter to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) threatening legal action if the ministry continues to fail to properly consider a faux bear fur developed by PETA that would enable the MoD to keep its promise to replace the bearskins used for the King’s Guard’s ornamental caps once a suitable material is found.
Even though PETA and luxury fur furrier ECOPEL have created a material that satisfies the agreed-upon terms – and a fabric technologist gave a glowing assessment of the world’s first faux bear fur – the MoD is failing to uphold its side of the bargain, refusing to consider the assessment or to trial the faux bear fur against the relevant criteria, which the letter identifies as grounds for judicial review due to unlawful conduct.
The letter details the years of correspondence between PETA and the MoD, including the repeated assurances from the ministry that a faux bear fur meeting its criteria of being waterproof and having fibres the same length as real bear fur would be adopted. In May 2022, PETA sent the ministry a four-page summary of test results, provided by fabric technologist Atom Cianfarani, detailing the faux fur’s performance in drying rate and compression testing – further proving that the material meets and in some areas exceeds the MoD’s requirements, matches the exact length of real bear fur, and is 100% waterproof. But in August 2022, the MoD notified Cianfarani that it would not even bother to evaluate the report.
PETA has devoted many years and thousands of pounds to developing and testing this state-of-the-art faux bear fur, yet the MoD refuses to honour the deal it made. The ECOPEL faux fur not only meets the MoD’s requirements but outperforms bearskin in some areas, so the ministry has no excuse not to adopt PETA’s vegan upgrade as promised.
“The MoD has repeatedly stated that it will test any faux fur PETA presents to it, most recently in a July 2022 parliamentary debate where the former procurement minister said that it is not wedded to bearskin and again reiterated the principled acceptance that if shown to be an appropriate replacement, faux fur would be adopted,” says Lorna Hackett, PETA’s legal counsel from Hackett & Dabbs LLP. “Despite this, the MoD has refused to analyse test results that prove the faux fur meets and exceeds the standards. PETA has been left with no choice but to pursue a judicial review on the grounds of unlawful conduct.”
The MoD has refused requests to meet with us and denied access to its cap makers, even though ECOPEL has offered an unlimited amount of the faux fur free of charge until 2030 – which would save taxpayer money and many bears’ lives. A government e-petition in support of PETA’s campaign amassed more than 100,000 signatures from the UK public, triggering a parliamentary debate in July.
After decades of telling the public that its fur is sourced from bears who are killed as part of Canadian government “culls”, the MoD admitted in a Freedom of Information request response that it purchases finished caps and has no knowledge of its supply chain, after PETA found no evidence that any such culls exist in any province or territory of Canada. Instead, hunters obtain permits to bait and kill bears for “sport”, then sell their fur to auction houses. It takes the skin of at least one bear to make a single cap. Some bears are shot several times before they die, and some escape only to bleed to death. The use of bows and arrows to hunt bears is permitted. Nursing mothers are among those killed and leave behind cubs who starve without them.
Bears Need You to Take Action
The Ministry of Defence has no excuses left not to make the humane switch. Join the campaign by urging Rishi Sunak to order the MoD quick-march the high-tech, luxurious faux fur into service.