Dame Vera Lynn – known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” – was one of the most beloved entertainers of her generation, famed for her morale-boosting songs, which supported British troops during the Second World War. Before her death in 2020, Dame Vera, who also used her legendary voice to speak up for animals, joined us in calling on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to stop using real bearskins for the Queen’s Guard’s caps.
Now that PETA and faux furrier ECOPEL have created a faux bear fur, Dame Vera’s daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, has picked up the torch and sent a letter to Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace. In the letter, Ms Lewis-Jones implores him to honour her late mother’s wishes and memory by replacing the bearskins used for the caps with the humane, animal-friendly fabric.
“My mother, the late Dame Vera Lynn, saw many changes during her lifetime. Sadly, one that she hoped would happen – an end to the slaughter of bears to make the Queen’s Guard’s caps – did not. However, I understand that since her passing, a faux bear fur has been created which would enable the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to retain the aesthetic of the bearskin caps without the cruelty. I’m writing, therefore, on behalf of my mother, to encourage the MoD to make the switch.”
– Virginia Lewis-Jones
Bringing Old Traditions Into the 21st Century
We have worked with luxury faux furrier ECOPEL to create the world’s first faux bear fur which, as Ms Lewis-Jones wrote, would allow the Army to hold onto the look of the iconic ceremonial caps – but in a way that is in keeping with modern-day values. ECOPEL’s fabric meets all the 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 exceeds the requirement for drying rate, drying 19% faster than bear fur, but the ministry still disingenuously claims that no suitable non-animal alternative is available.
ECOPEL has offered the MoD an unlimited amount of the material free of charge until 2030 – a move that could save over £1 million of taxpayer money.
The MoD has always maintained that its support of the slaughter of Canadian black bears would end as soon as a suitable alternative was available. That day has now come.
A Product of Cruelty
The MoD claims that bears are killed as part of Canadian government culls, but we have 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.
Tradition Is Not an Excuse for Cruelty
“My mother enjoyed many British traditions, but felt strongly – as do I – that using real bearskin for hats is one tradition not worth saving. With your help, these faux fur caps can – and should – be quick-marched into service, honouring her wishes and her memory.”
And we agree! We cannot call ourselves a “nation of animal lovers” if such an iconic symbol of our national identity is the product of such appalling cruelty.
The Future Is Fur-Free, the Public Agrees
A petition in support of our campaign has already hit the threshold for triggering a debate in Parliament, which will take place in July, while a new poll carried out by Populus – official pollster of The Times – revealed that 73% of the UK public would like to see action taken to replace the bearskins with faux fur.
Join our campaign. Let the prime minister and the defence minister know that you want progress on this issue. Take action now.