I have recently been contacted by many constituents with the PETA campaign to replace the real fur used in the Bearskin hats with faux fur. These bearskin hats are an iconic image of Britain and the British Army. The Grenadier Guards began to wear these hats after their victory at Waterloo, and have worn them with great and deserved pride ever since. Millions of tourists a year come to visit Britain, and the Guards Regiments are without a doubt one of the most striking and evocative images of our great nation.
The Ministry of Defence has stated that if a material should prove acceptable for this purpose, then it would be used. So far, tests conducted on potential replacement materials have not presented such a material. The most recent test results, provided by PETA from an accredited testing house, have been analysed by the MoD. The analysis concluded that the fabric only met one of the five basic requirements. To date, and to the MoD’s knowledge, there is no faux fur alternative that meets the required standard to provide an effective replacement for the Household Division’s ceremonial hats.
Individual soldiers do not possess these hats as private property, but instead the hats are cared for and reissued between soldiers. These bearskins can last for over a decade, with some bearskins having been used for as long as sixty years.
The procurement of the pelts that are fashioned into the bearskins is done in the most responsible way. The bears are never hunted to order for the MoD. The pelts are sourced exclusively from Canada, which is known for its well-regulated market and animal welfare. Canada is a declared party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.
I believe that our proud and impressive traditions can be maintained, whilst also ensuring animal welfare standards. The Canadian Government maintains the highest of standards during the procurement of these pelts, and the trade is well regulated. The famous high standards of maintenance and ensuing longevity of the uniforms of the Household Division means that replacements are kept to a minimum. I believe that this is a good balance between tradition, high quality bearskins, and concern for the Canadian Bears.