Soldiers of the Household Division on parade marking the Queen’s Official Birthday in June 2011 110611 CREDIT MOD
Army

Could The Army's Bearskin Hats Be Replaced?

It is thought the Army buys between 50 and 100 bearskin hats - made from the American Black Bear - each year.

Soldiers of the Household Division on parade marking the Queen’s Official Birthday in June 2011 110611 CREDIT MOD

The British Army’s traditional bearskin hat could be replaced by fake fur, if proposed new trading laws are passed.

The Government is drawing up plans to raise the national standards on the purchase of fur, which could see an end to the iconic hat worn by guardsmen for ceremonial purposes.

Seven Army regiments are authorised to wear the distinctive, 18-inch high hats, with a suitable alternative yet to be found.

The hats are made from fur of the American Black Bear which are lawfully culled annually in Canada. 

It is thought the Army buys between 50 and 100 bearskin hats each year - costing £650 each. 

However, future orders may be cancelled as Britain exits the European Union and trading standards change. 

Claire Bass, Executive Director at the Humane Society International (UK), said: "We banned fur farming nearly 20 years ago here but have since been still importing it, we have now the opportunity to end that double standard.

"There are already bans on the sale of cat fur, dog fur and fur from commercial seal hunts, but we would like to use Brexit as an opportunity to extend those bans – to cover all fur-bearing species."

The Queen inspects members of the Welsh Guards wearing the bearskin hats (Picture: MOD).

The British Army stresses the bears are not hunted to order for use by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and that the cull is done to manage the numbers of black bears in the wild.

In response, Ms Bass said the group advocates "a non-lethal and humane solution, wherever that’s possible".

She added she understands the MOD has been "very receptive" to faux fur alternatives pushed by animal protection organisations.

Trials of alternatives have taken place within the forces but they have so far been deemed ineffective in wet weather. 

In a statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We have some of the highest welfare standards in the world and that is both a source of pride and a clear reflection of British attitudes towards animals. 

"Fur farming has rightly been banned in this country for nearly 20 years and at the end of the transition period we will be able to properly consider steps to raise our standards still further."

The bearskin hats became a distinctive feature of the Grenadier Guards following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 but have gone on to be used elsewhere in the forces.

If well maintained, it is thought the fur designs currently in use can last up to 20 years.

A spokesperson from the British Fur Trade Association said: "Natural fur comes from sustainable sources that meet stringent animal welfare standards including the Army bearskin that is sourced from licensed conservation programmes in Canada.

"Calls for ban on fur in the UK choose to ignore the reality that synthetic alternatives are far worse for the environment than the real thing."

Cover image: Guards of the Household Division on parade (Picture: MOD).