In January, Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, together with PETA, launched a government petition calling on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to replace the bearskins used for the Queen’s Guard’s caps with faux fur. The government has provided an official response – but it’s full of misinformation.
PETA has fact-checked the statement to prevent people from being duped by MoD officials who are misleading the public with no repercussion or consequence.
Here’s the truth behind the MoD’s false claims:
1. The Bears Are Not Killed in a ‘Cull’
“Our suppliers source pelts made available by the Canadian authorities following a licenced cull as part of a programme to manage the wild bear population.”
PETA has found no evidence of any Canadian province running – or having previously run – any official black bear culling programmes.
Over the years, the government has given conflicting statements about the way in which the bear pelts are acquired. Officials have claimed they are from licensed fur traders, from the Indigenous “Inuit people of Canada”, and even from animals who died of natural causes.
However, in a 2021 Freedom of Information request by PETA, the Army Secretariat admitted that it doesn’t know anything about the supply chain: “No information in scope of this element of your request is held by the department. … [T]he MOD receives the final product from our contracted suppliers and is not involved with the licensed cull sanctioned by the Canadian government.”
In summary, the MoD is now claiming the deaths are a result of a “cull” to sugarcoat the fact that the UK’s demand for bearskins is fuelling bear slaughter. Read more about where the fur really comes from here.
2. The Fur Is Not a “By-Product”
“Bear pelts that are used for the Queen’s Guards ceremonial caps are the by-products of these licenced culls, as opposed to fur being harvested from an animal being bred for this sole purpose. Therefore, any reduction in the number of bearskins procured by the MOD would not equate to a reduction in the numbers of bears being culled.”
The MoD frequently makes the claim that the bear pelts are the by-product of a “cull” overseen by Canadian authorities. Yet, as confirmed to PETA by both the federal and the provincial Canadian governments, no such “cull” exists.
PETA believes the MoD is using the term disingenuously as a euphemism for the annual quota of hunting tags issued by the Canadian government to licensed hunting enthusiasts who enjoy killing bears for “sport” or “trophies”. Once in possession of these tags, hunters are free to bait and kill bears.
Many bears are shot several times, and some escape and die slowly from blood loss, gangrene, starvation, or dehydration. Some provinces allow mother bears to be killed, meaning their cubs are left to starve or are killed by predators. Even the use of bows and arrows is allowed.
Hunters are permitted to sell their “trophies”, which often means that the pelts are sold to fur auction houses for financial gain.
It is undeniable that money from buyers of bear pelts is making the baiting and killing of bears a profitable pursuit for hunters.
3. There Is No Pride in Wearing an Animal
“Guardsmen take great pride in wearing the bearskin cap which is an iconic image of Britain.”
Even the regiment’s namesake, Her Majesty the Queen, no longer purchases fur for her own wardrobe.
With more than 95% of the UK public rejecting fur, it is a betrayal of British values to use taxpayer money to fund the slaughter of bears. Guardsmen take pride in guarding the Queen and serving their country. It is not admirable to wear a dead animal. A faux-fur cap will maintain this iconic image of Britain but ensure that it embodies 21st century values.
4. There are 5 criteria to be met
“The material it is made from must therefore meet the five required criteria.”
PETA has been told by the MoD that the requirements for a faux fur to be put into service are that it must be waterproof and that its fibres must match the exact length of real bear fur. Together with ECOPEL, we have produced a faux fur that meets these requirements. The MoD is now claiming that there are five criteria, yet this has never been communicated to PETA or published on the record. Clearly, this is a tactic to delay progress and disregard a like-for-like faux fur.
5. There IS a Non-Animal Alternative Available
“Unfortunately, there is currently no non-animal alternative available that meet the essential criterion for the Queen’s Guards ceremonial caps.
A man-made fabric manufactured by Ecopel was passed to an independent testing house by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and those results were shared with the MOD. However, our analysis of the results shows that it does not in fact reach the standards needed to provide an effective replacement for our bearskin ceremonial caps.”
Together with the world’s top faux furrier, ECOPEL, we have created a faux bear fur that is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
The MoD’s tired excuses are unacceptable. ECOPEL has offered to meet and work with the MoD’s cap makers to allow any possible adjustments to the fabric, free of charge.
Yet the MoD has refused the request, blocking any chance of progress, while deceitfully telling the public it would be willing to change were a suitable alternative provided.
You can read more here about how the MoD is taking the British public for fools by claiming there is no alternative.
6. The Faux-Fur Cap Responds to Water Identically to Real Fur
“Analysis of these recent tests conducted on the fake fur fabric showed it met only one of the five requirements to be considered as a viable alternative for ceremonial caps. Whilst it met the basic standard for water absorption, it showed unacceptable rates of water shedding.”
The only thing that’s unacceptable here is the MoD’s response.
The MoD’s own accredited laboratory assessed how much, if any, water penetrates through the fabric to ensure the soldiers don’t get wet while wearing the caps.
The faux-fur cap, like the bearskin cap, was found to have “[n]o wetting to the back of sample”, meaning it is 100% waterproof.
The real bearskin, when wet, formed tendrils – so, too, did the faux-fur sample. And when the faux fur was shaken – in a way similar to how a soldier might shake their head when wearing the cap – the report noted that the water “[d]roplets have been shaken off”. In water shedding tests, both fabrics responded in a remarkably similar way – even a circular indent in the fabric was present on both samples afterwards – with water running off both fabrics in the same fashion and volume.
7. The Caps Are Visually Indistinguishable
“[It] performed poorly on the visual assessment.”
The two fabrics look virtually identical. Can you tell the difference?
8. “User Comfort” Hasn’t Even Been Assessed
“As well as passing initial laboratory tests, any new fabric would have to meet with user approval for shape and comfort for a parade length of duty.”
The MoD is concerned about “user comfort”, even though no user has ever worn it.
Samples of ECOPEL’s fabric haven’t even been requested in order to create a cap to try on a soldier’s head.
9. The Faux Fur Is Just as Durable
“It would look at whether the fabric could maintain its shape over time, whether it is comfortable and safe for the user – including ensuring any waterproof backing is breathable – whether the faux fur is waterproof after the shaping, sewing and perforation that would be involved and consideration would also be given to its sustainability compared to the current natural fur fabric.”
Given that the real bearskin caps have to be replaced or refurbished every few years and that ECOPEL has offered to supply the MoD with free faux fur until 2030, this one doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either.
How Can We Combat the MoD’s Misinformation?
The government’s response to the petition is not the end. If we get 100,000 signatures, it will trigger a debate in Parliament.
If you’re a UK citizen or have a UK address and haven’t already signed the petition, please take action now:
If you have signed it already, tell everyone you know to do so, too. Bears need as many signatures as possible:
What Else Can You Do?
Please also help us take action against the MoD’s false claims by taking these three simple steps:
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