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The petition and Government response

The petition, ‘Replace the real bearskins used for the Queen’s Guard’s caps with faux fur closed on 6 July 2022 and was started by the pop star and television personality, Alesha Dixon and received 106,361 signatures.

The petition said: 

“There is no excuse for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to continue to effectively fund the slaughter of bears for ceremonial headgear since an indistinguishable alternative has been produced, which is waterproof, and mimics real bear fur in appearance and performance. 

According to PETA, it takes the skin of at least one bear to make a single cap. There are concerns that some of the bears whose fur is used for this headgear are shot several times by hunters and can endure slow, painful deaths. 

It is unconscionable to continue to spend taxpayers’ money (£1 million in the last seven years) on a product that 93% of British people refuse to wear. The MoD is not exempt from the ethical standards of the rest of society. For this national symbol to endure in a way that embodies modern society, it must be replaced with faux fur.” 

In its response, the Government said it had “no plans to end the use of bearskins” and bears were never “hunted to order” but were “by-products of a licensed cull by the Canadian authorities to manage the wild bear population.” 

In an answer to a written question in February 2022, the Government said that ceremonial caps need to perform successfully in “five areas: water absorption, penetration, appearance, drying rate and compression” and in addition to this “any new fabric would have to gain user approval for shape and comfort for a parade length of duty.” The Government said none of the four artificial furs tested since 2015 have met the necessary standard. 

Commenting on the man-made fabric manufactured by Ecopel that was passed to an independent testing house by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the government said that their analysis of the fabric showed it only passed one requirement: 

The analysis concluded that the fabric only met one of the five basic requirements necessary to be considered as a viable alternative for ceremonial caps. While it met the basic standard for water penetration, it showed unacceptable rates of water shedding and performed poorly on the visual assessment. Results for the artificial fur’s drying rate and compression were not presented.

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