A milestone debate took place in the House of Commons on Monday, during which Members of Parliament from several political parties scrutinized the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) continued use of real bear fur for the Queen’s Guard’s caps and spoke passionately about the need to switch to faux fur.
Earlier this year, PETAUK, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), together with Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, launched a government petition calling for the ceremonial caps to be replaced with faux fur. The petition, which was co-sponsored by Virginia Lewis-Jones, the daughter of the late Dame Vera Lynn – fondly known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” – and former soldier Andy Knott MBE, chief executive of the animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports, rapidly hit over 100,000 signatures, triggering the important debate.
At the event, MPs pointed out how preposterous it is that the British Army is spending taxpayer money on caps made from the fur of slaughtered bears. They pointed to the world's first faux bear fur – created by PETA and luxury faux furrier ECOPEL – which looks and performs exactly like bearskin. And they questioned why this fabric, which has been offered to the MoD free of charge, has not been marched into service, sparing bears’ lives and saving taxpayer money. The MPs spoke of the need for the Ministry to work with PETA to make the switch to faux fur, allowing the iconic caps to endure but in a way that is in keeping with modern values.
The MoD claims that bears are killed as part of Canadian government culls, but PETA has found no evidence that any culls of this sort exist in any province or territory of Canada. Hunters obtain permits to bait and kill bears, whose fur is then sold 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.
According to the petitioners the faux-fur fabric meets all of MoD’s requirements: it matches the exact length of real bear fur, is 100% waterproof, and performs similarly in water shedding and compression tests. It even outperforms bear fur in drying rate testing.
Following on the parliamentary debate PETAUK announced it will continue to push the Ministry to act.