UK’s Ministry of Defence refuses to use fake fur for ceremonial bearskin hats

NEWS AND OPINION: On my reading of this news story, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) refuses to stop using genuine black bearskins for their bearskin ceremonial hats despite the availability of faux fur alternatives.

As a consequence, PETA are indirectly suing them by seeking a judicial review of their decision making. PETA claims that the MoD has failed to properly consider faux fur alternatives which they say meet all their requirements. They are manufactured by ECOPEL.

Bearskin protest
Bearskin protest. Image: PETA.
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PETA say that the MoD promised to replace the genuine bearskins once a suitable alternative was found but they now refuse to trial the faux fur and evaluate the findings of laboratory tests.

In defence, the MoD claim that the faux fur product fails to meet four of their five requirements and therefore is an unviable alternative.

These requirements relate to water absorption, penetration, appearance and drying rate and compression according to news media.

In response, PETA state that tests by a fabric technologist found that the faux fur product meets and, in some cases, exceeds the MoD requirements and are apparently exasperated at the MoD’s refusal to evaluate the results.

PETA’s legal representative from Hackett & Dabbs LLP, Lorna Hackett, said: “We are seeking the court’s intervention so that the MoD fully evaluates the report and reaches a fresh decision by fair process, with a view to considering the faux fur fabric’s adoption as a replacement for real fur if it is found to be suitable, as the MoD has long committed to doing.”

The MoD said: “We have been served with a legal claim in respect of this matter and cannot provide specific comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

Horse Guard
Horse Guard. The bearskin caps for British foot guards are coloured black, with most caps made from the fur of a Canadian black bear. Photo: Ibex73 – Own work on Wikipedia.


What is the background to this dispute? My knowledge of the MoD from many previous stories is that they are hopeless decision-makers when it comes to procuring all manner of products from military vehicles to, in this instance, ceremonial hats. They just don’t have the ability to do it properly and they grind along at a snail’s pace consistently making bad decisions and wasting taxpayers’ money. There is a long history of this going back decades.

There is an interesting letter from the Army Policy and Secretariat in response to a request for information about the procurement of bearskin hats (Freedom of Information request).

The questioner asked whether the bearskins come from a licensed cull sanctioned by the Canadian government. They also ask the MoD to reflect on the ethical standards of their decision-making and ask whether the MoD is under any obligation to take into consideration ethical standards.

They also ask how many ceremonial caps made from bearskin were purchased in 2020 and the cost.

The MoD brick walls all the questions saying that they have no knowledge of where the bearskins come from. They simply make the following statement:

“110 ceremonial bearskin caps were purchased by the MOD in 2020 at a cost of £145,000.”

So, for example, the question about whether the bear fur came from a licensed cull is answered as follows:

“No information in scope of this element of your request is held by the department. Under Section 16 of the Act (Advice and Assistance) it may be helpful for you to note that the MOD receives the final product from our contracted suppliers and is not involved with the licensed cull sanctioned by the
Canadian government.”

It appears that they simply contract with a supplier in Canada and pay the money without questions being asked.

They say that they have no information about ceremonial caps being treated to halt the “natural putrefaction process”. They just plead ignorance throughout it seems to me.

On November 19, 2021, the Independent newspaper state that the UK government spent more than £1 million of taxpayers’money over seven years on bear fur hats for the military.

Over the period 2014-2019 the MoD bought a total of 891 bearskin hats for the Queen’s Guard. The information comes from PETA which claims that up to 1000 bears have died (presumed killed) to make these hats.

The MoD needs to wake up and smarten up once and for all. They are half asleep and have been for decades. The generals at the top of the MoD are basically thick without business experience.

P.S. I am told that Stella McCartney will design the faux fur bearskin hats.

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2 thoughts on “UK’s Ministry of Defence refuses to use fake fur for ceremonial bearskin hats”

  1. Mike you should have included Stella McCartney’s (Paul’s Ex-wife) Fake Bear skin hat. It looks as real as what the guard uses now.

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