PETA, a U.S.-based animal rights group, has called on the U.K. Ministry of Defense to discontinue its support for bearskin caps worn by the King’s Guard, labeling the associated industry as “barbaric.” This comes after PETA’s undercover investigation into bear-baiting and the hunting of black bears in Canada, with claims that the British soldiers’ iconic hats are made from “cruelly” obtained fur.
In a statement and video featuring British actor Stephen Fry, PETA alleges that the fur from hunted bears is sometimes used in the hats of the King’s Guard. Fry, in the video, asserts that wearing these hats brings dishonor to the country.
Bear-baiting, legal in Canada but outlawed in most U.S. states and the U.K., involves luring animals with greasy food. PETA argues that at least one bear is killed to make a single hat. According to PETA U.K., records show the Ministry of Defense purchased 498 bearskin hats between 2017 and 2022.
While the Canadian Department of National Defence claims the hats are made from fur over 20 years old, PETA insists that this doesn’t justify inhumane animal killing for ornamentation. PETA is urging the Ministry of Defense to switch to faux fur, claiming they offered a suitable alternative in 2017 and 2023.
Fry emphasized in the video that “Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty” and urged the Ministry of Defence to transition to humane faux fur for the King’s Guard’s caps.
PETA claims the Ministry of Defence justified using bearskin pelts as a byproduct of a “cull” overseen by Canadian authorities, which PETA disputes. The organization criticized the Ministry of Defence for aligning with Furmark, a fur industry accreditation scheme.
Kate Werner, PETA Senior Campaigns Manager, accused the Ministry of Defence of attempting to “greenwash and justify the slaughter of majestic bears” and called on them to end their complicity with bear slaughter.
Responding, a PETA spokesperson emphasized that “tradition is no excuse for cruelty,” highlighting the violent nature of bearskin caps’ production. PETA is urging defense agencies in the U.K. and Canada to retire the caps in favor of humane alternatives, such as those offered by faux furrier ECOPEL.