PETA launches campaign against bearskin hats worn by King’s Guard in United Kingdom

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U.S.-based animal rights group PETA called on the U.K. Ministry of Defense to “stop supporting this barbaric industry” of bearskin caps worn by the King’s Guard. 

After the group conducted an undercover investigation into the practice of bear-baiting and killing black bears with guns or crossbows in Canada, they concluded that the iconic black, fluffy hats worn by British servicemen are “cruel.”

The group, in a statement and a video released Wednesday narrated by British actor Stephen Fry, alleged that the fur from the bears killed is auctioned off and sometimes ends up in the hats worn by the soldiers of the King’s Guard.

“Every day that our soldiers wear hats made from the fur of slaughtered bears brings dishonor to our country,” Fry said in the video.

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Bear-baiting, a technique hunters use to lure large animals with greasy food, is outlawed in most U.S. states and the U.K.– but remains legal in Canada.

PETA said that it takes the skin of “at least” one bear to make a single hat.

According to public records obtained by PETA U.K., the Ministry of Defense (MoD) bought 498 bearskin hats between 2017 and 2022.

Changing of the Guard

PETA said that the Canadian Department of National Defence claimed that all the hats worn by its Ceremonial Guard are made from fur that’s over 20 years old.

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The animal rights organization argued that it still doesn’t make killing the animals inhumanely okay “for the sake of an ornament.”

The King's Guard remove their Bearskin hats

The PETA campaign called on the U.K. Ministry of Defense to switch to fake fur in the hope that it will curb the form of hunting.

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The organization claimed that they have developed faux fur that meets the ministry’s standards and offered it to them for use in 2017 and 2023.

“Britain has always prided itself on being ‘sporting’, but these bears—lured with cookies to the hunters’ hiding place—stand no chance of survival,” Fry said in a statement. 

Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty.

— Stephen Fry, actor and comedian

“Tradition is never an excuse for cruelty, which is why I’m joining the call for the Ministry of Defence to stop using the fur of slaughtered wildlife and make the switch to humane faux fur for the King’s Guard’s caps. To do otherwise would be unconscionable—and un-British,” Fry said.

PETA supporters hold a banner reading 'Bearskin Caps? Thats Old Hat!

According to PETA, the MoD claimed that the bearskin pelts were a byproduct of a “cull” overseen by Canadian authorities. 

“Yet federal and provincial Canadian governments have confirmed that no such culls exist. The Canadian government issues “tags” to hunting enthusiasts, who are then free to bait and kill an allotted number of bears for recreation and sell their skins,” PETA said. “The MoD then aligned itself with Furmark, a commercial fur industry accreditation scheme that exists solely to defend the interests of fur farmers and hunters and promote the (rapidly declining) use of fur in fashion.”

Guard Change at Windsor castle

PETA Senior Campaigns Manager Kate Werner said that the MoD attempts to “greenwash and justify the slaughter of majestic bears” in the hat-making process.

“Instead of aligning with the values and morals of the British public, who reject fur, and with the example set by the late Queen Elizabeth when she refused to buy fur for her wardrobe, the MoD is aligning itself with an accreditation scheme that attempts to greenwash and justify the slaughter of majestic bears,” Werner said. “PETA urges the MoD to end its complicity with bear slaughter and fully evaluate the faux bear fur so it can be quick-marched into service.”

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a PETA spokesperson said that, “tradition is no excuse for cruelty.”

“As PETA’s investigation shows, the bearskin caps worn by the U.K.’s King’s Guard and Canada’s Ceremonial Guard are products of a violent blood sport in which bears are lured with greasy food and sweets before being shot with crossbow arrows, often running away injured only to endure slow, agonizingly painful deaths,” PETA said. “Whether a bear was killed yesterday or 20 years ago, wearing their fur sends the harmful message that killing individuals for the sake of an ornament is acceptable when it’s anything but.”

Tradition is no excuse for cruelty.

— PETA spokesperson

“Tradition is no excuse for cruelty,” the organization said. “PETA is calling on the U.K.’s and Canada’s defense agencies to retire their bearskin caps and opt for humane headgear from luxury faux furrier ECOPEL, which is ready and waiting to march into service.”

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