Price Of Bearskin Hats Soars Five-Fold In Seven Years
For two centuries it has stood tall and proud as a British military tradition, but spiralling prices and animal rights protests have put the...
For two centuries it has stood tall and proud as a British military tradition, but spiralling prices and animal rights protests have put the historic headpiece under the spotlight.
Spending on the Canada-sourced caps increased from £31,319 in 2008 to £149,379 in 2015. The total cost over the past seven years is almost £1 million.
The ethics of acquiring the bearskins have also been called into question.
Defence Minister Phillip Dunne said The MoD has not carried out any trials since 2007 to find a synthetic alternative to bear skin, but did loan a sample bearskin to the Animal Rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to aid its research and development programme on an artificial alternative.
PETA, though, are not satisfied with the effort made.
"With the resources, science and technology at the MoD's disposal, it's inexcusable that the same Army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims that it's unable to find a cruelty-free replacement for fur after two decades of 'searching' – especially when luxurious faux-fur materials are widely available.”
The MoD has previously indicated that it's open to alternatives to the traditional bearskin hat. Animal rights campaigners, meanwhile, have called for fake fur to be used instead, citing:
"For each of The Queen's Guards' caps, a bear is cruelly killed, either by being shot or ensnared, possibly for days, in a painful trap – and British taxpayers, a good 95 per cent of whom object to killing animals for fur, are unwittingly paying for it."
The traditional bearskin came into use following the Battle of Waterloo, when the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards defeated Napoleon's Grenadier Guards, taking the spoils of war in the form of their French fur hats.
On return to England they were renamed the Grenadier Guards, and keep their namesake to this day. Their uniform was changed to include the tall fur hats as a permanent reminder of their victory.
In March 2005, however, Labour MP Chris Mullin called for an immediate ban on bearskin hats, stating that they "have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty."
Army officials say roughly 100 skins are taken every year from the annual cull of thousands of bears by native Inuit hunters, in a Canadian government programme to keep numbers under control.
MoD statement: "The black bear is culled in large numbers each year by the Canadian authorities because the population is dangerously high. We only take 100 pelts a year and that is a fraction of the number culled."
"The MoD is not opposed to the use of synthetic materials as an alternative to bearskins, provided such materials meet the requirement for a high-quality product that performs adequately in all weather conditions. Regrettably, a suitable alternative continues to prove elusive."
"We have examined various alternative materials in the past, but none has come remotely close to matching the natural properties of bear fur in terms of shape, weight and its ability to repel moisture in wet conditions."