The British actor, presenter, and author Stephen Fry is joining animal rights groups in calling for an end to the use of real fur in the bearskin caps worn by the King’s Guard, which are part of the ceremonial British military uniforms, and replace them with fake fur instead. Mr Fry has narrated a video produced by the animal rights group PETA showing how the bears are being killed in Canada, and in it, he says, “Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty…By continuing to purchase caps made of black bear fur, the UK government drives demand for pelts and effectively incentivises hunters…Britain has always prided itself on being sporting, but these bears – lured with cookies to the hunters’ hiding place – stand no chance of survival.”
He also says that It takes at least one bear to provide enough fur for each cap, and shot bears might not be killed at once, but might die later from infected wounds or blood loss.
Kate Werner from PETA said, “The UK government is sponsoring bait-and-kill sport hunting of mothers and other bears.” The Ministry of Defence says the bear fur is from “legal and licensed hunts.”
In 2022, tests suggested that bear skins used for the then Queen’s Guards’ caps were outperformed by a fake vegan fabric. However, the Ministry of Defence rejected the vegan versions used with a material called Ecopel claiming that it is not a suitable alternative to the fur from slaughtered Canadian black bears. They rejected the alternatives even when Ecopel offered to supply the MoD with unlimited faux bear fur free of charge until 2030. There was an official petition that British citizens could sign to replace the real bearskins used for the King’s Guard’s caps with faux fur, and it reached 106,354 signatures.